At 80 – Anna and Jim – Keep the Flowers Fresh and Pizza Coming – Anna’s House of Flowers & Cascarelli’s

Written by Carolyn Gilg

Photos by Carolyn Gilg

City Watch NEWS

April 20, 2023

On a gray, rainy Monday afternoon, I met with two stalwarts of the Albion business scene – Jim Cascarelli and Anna Merritt. These two long-time businesspeople are holding down Superior Street, although they are several blocks apart.

Pizza Please

I started the ball rolling with Jim by stating what I thought was an obvious statement: Jim had been working at the family restaurant since he was very young: he told me he started in his mid-20s. He graduated from Washington Gardner High School in 1960 and attended college. 

He spent 3 ½ years in college, worked part-time for his dad, and then four years in the military; ultimately, he returned to Albion. Before working with his dad, he did other jobs: putting in curbs and gutters along Broadwell Street and making TV tubes at the Corning factory (currently Knauf Insulation).  

I asked Jim when the restaurant expanded its menus from pizza to serving dinners. According to Jim, it’s a funny story. Initially, Jim’s dad, Louis, only served sandwiches and hamburgers during the ’50s and ’60s, which Louis cooked in the front window of the original building. Their featured sandwich then was canned corned beef, toasted, on rye. Everything was fresh, but it was a limited menu. There wasn’t much of a kitchen at that time, either.

Sometime around 1966 or ’67, Louis added on to the front of the original building, which had been a fruit stand, when Louis’s father owned the business. 

Jim Cascarelli sets a table in his conference center.

Jim was discharged from the military in 1970 and returned home to Albion to work with his father in the family business in 1971 or ’72, and pizzas were added to the menu. The kitchen, as we know it today, finally took shape.

At the time, Jim thought Albion needed a little Italian restaurant serving spaghetti, meatballs, and lasagna; unfortunately, it wasn’t as successful as Jim had hoped. Instead, they transitioned into more of a pub, serving pub-style food, like prime rib or baby back ribs, and wild-caught fish.


The thing that kept Jim and his wife, Nancy, in Albion was family. Both Jim’s family and Nancy’s family were very supportive. Jim’s dad had passed away by this time, but his mom Helen, stayed on until she was 92. It wasn’t easy in some ways, having his mom stay on. Helen had been a part of the restaurant for many years but often struggled with the changes necessary to run a business in the late 20th century.

The Old Guard

Jim says Cascarelli’s and Charlie’s (Tavern) are a dying breed: the last of the small, family-owned/family-run bars. Since the 1970s, more than 13 small bars/restaurants in Albion have closed.

I asked Jim: When you returned and started working with your dad, did you ever consider that you might still be doing this at 80? He said no. He aspired to reach age 55, be out of debt, and be ready to quit. He says they were very close to debt-free, but the recession hit.

During a Chamber of Commerce golf outing, the owners of the Bohm Theater told Jim he’d like to sell his buildings (they were behind the restaurant then). Jim says he doesn’t play golf but was along for the ride in the golf cart. Jim told him, “Just for the heck of it, I guess I’d like to buy ’em from you.” The owner told Jim he’d meet Jim the next day at the Big Boy (the current site of Full Moon). They sat down and wrote the contract on the back of one of the paper placemats, and the deal was done.

There have been many changes over the years, and when I asked Jim if he’d do it all over again? he said, “Probably not.”


Flowers for Everyone

Anna has been in the flower business for many, many years. She started working in Hubert’s Flowers (currently the site of Gordon Martin Builders) at 16, working in the greenhouse there. Before becoming a full-time florist, she worked at various places, sometimes as a secretary and sometimes as a quality control consultant. 

One day she was working in the greenhouse when someone in the flower shop didn’t show up for work. The owner came over and told Anna to go to the flower shop. Once there, he pointed at the other person working there and told Anna, “Do what she’s doing.” And that’s how she first got involved with the flower business.

When delving into being a “native” Albionite, I discovered Anna is a transplant. Anna’s family originated in Six Lakes, north of here, towards Alma. Her dad worked for the gas wells until he left that job and moved himself and his family to Albion to work at Gale Manufacturing.

Anna had been working for a company out of Marshall, flying around the country as their accounts receivable clerk. She’d get on a plane and fly to Texas, for example. She’d show up at the customer’s main office to collect the money they owed to the company she worked for, either leaving with a check for the amount due or getting on the phone with her headquarters and telling them to stop the order. 

A New Start

When the company moved to Waco, Anna stayed behind and was without a job. Enter local businessman Vern Plassman. He asked Anna what she was going to do with herself, and she replied that she was thinking about opening a flower shop; she was 40 years old. There was a house for sale on Michigan Ave that she thought would make a good flower shop. Vern told Anna he owned that house and that if she wanted the house for a flower shop, she could have it, and Anna’s House of Flowers was born.   

Anna Merritt Works on Bridal arrangements.

Pioneering Women

Anna was a “pioneer” in some ways, opening a bridal shop with a flower shop. The shop opened in 1985 as a flower shop and a full-service bridal salon. Quincy was the closest bridal shop to Albion in those days; the next closest was in Lansing. So Anna filled a need in Albion. 

Eventually, flower shops around the area heard about the flower/bridal shop combo and started calling Anna about it, asking her if there was money to be made. She was honest and told them it was too early to tell since she had just opened the business. Ultimately, several shops decided to do the same thing, and suddenly, the market was saturated with combination flower/bridal shops. Anna saw the proverbial writing on the wall and started easing out of the bridal salon business. She continued the flower business at the shop on Michigan Ave.

Anna runs her flower shop out of a storefront on South Superior St. (In the Parks Pharmacy building beside the Secretary of State Building on the alley). She says there are some days when she feels slightly claustrophobic; the shop is much smaller than the house on Michigan Ave.

When reflecting on her 38 years of running a business, Anna talks about how she and Jim are the only two businesses and business owners on the main street who are 80 years old and still actively working. It speaks well for Albion that these two businesses and their owners are working in the 21st century.

Speaking about the two of them still working, Anna says, “I guess we’re just not ready to give up yet.” 

Albion College – Attorney General Probe is “Pending”

Written by John Face
April 14, 2023

As the current leadership at Albion College tells staff that the Attorney General’s (AG) investigation is over and “nothing was wrong,” City Watch can report that it isn’t necessarily true. We reached out to the AG for Comment on a pending story we have and received a reply from them that leads us to believe that the investigation is, in fact, not over.

We sent an email, shown here edited, requesting a reply:

To: Brien Winfield Heckman
Assistant Attorney General


I am John Face of City Watch NEWS in Albion, Michigan. I have researched an article regarding Albion College over the last few months. I have received copies of hundreds of emails via FOIA for my research and wanted to contact you as I am now nearing the conclusion of my work—————-

————————I would appreciate your on-the-record response stating that you can’t comment on your investigation, at minimum.

If you have any questions, please email or call me. My phone number is listed below.


John Face

City Watch received this reply today:

Good afternoon John,

I am the Press Secretary at the Department of the Attorney General. I understand you recently reached out to Brien Heckman for comment regarding your coverage.

I have seen your request and I would decline to comment on a pending matter.

Thank you,
Danny Wimmer
Press Secretary

As you have already read, we will release our article about this investigation in the coming weeks. A pending matter appears not to be a closed investigation. City Watch is attempting to get further clarification. As always, if you have information about this or any other topic, feel free to send us a confidential email at:

Haadsma on Exciting Opportunity for Local Transportation Infrastructure Funding



Jim Haadsma

LANSING, Mich., April 13, 2023 — The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has announced funding is available via the Community Infrastructure Grant to help small communities with local road and transportation infrastructure projects. This program allows for local government investments to be matched by the state — funded by spending included in Senate Bill 7, which allocated $25 million for the Transportation Economic Development Fund. Upon hearing this news, state Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) issued the following statement:

“The announcement of this grant program is most welcome news. It means the state will match local funds dollar-for-dollar to make roadway improvements. Not only does this make way for the opportunity to improve transportation infrastructure in Springfield and Albion, it also means there is an opening to bring more construction jobs to our local communities. Sounds like a win-win to me.”

Background: MDOT launched a site accepting applications for the Community Infrastructure Grant on April 11. This is part of the supplemental House Democrats voted for in January of this year. The program will match 50% of eligible funds for cities and villages with populations of 10,000 people or less to offset the costs of fixing roads and invest in reconstruction, replacement, rehabilitation or preventive maintenance projects in these smaller jurisdictions. 

The College of Wooster Interim to become Albion College 18th President

Written by John Face

April 3, 2023

City Watch NEWS

Dr. Wayne Webster serves as Interim President at the College of Wooster in Ohio and will now become Albion Colleges’ 18th president. According to the Wooster College website (click here for link) bio for Webster, he has over 20 years of executive leadership experience.

Webster took over as the Interim President at Wooster on July 1, 2022, and will leave for Albion on July 1, 2023, when Wooster’s new President, Dr. Anne E. McCall, assumes the role of the president there.

According to the college’s website, “Webster previously served as Vice President for Advancement at The College of Wooster, where he led the public phase of the $190 million Wooster’s Promise campaign, which resulted in a state-of-the-art life sciences building and significant endowment growth to help support strategic initiatives. He is currently leading the successful two-year $36 million fundraising effort for the student center renovation, set to complete in January 2023. During his four years at Wooster, the endowment has grown from $299.6 million to an estimated $420 million. He has played a role in helping to bring the endowment to draw down from 5.88 percent to 5 percent over that period”.

“This kind of fundraising ability is what Albion College will need,” stated one staffer about Webster. “After Johnson (Mat Johnson, former Albion College President) failed to raise any money and did nothing but claim Dr. Mauri Ditzler fundraised money, let’s hope our new president knows how to do it,” said another.

City Watch has spoken with several faculty members who all stated their support for the new president and said, “I will work with him to make Albion better.”

Welcome to Albion Dr. Webster City Watch looks forward to working with you.


Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford announces a $3.5 billion investment plan

MARSHALL, Mich., Feb. 13, 2023 – Building on Ford’s commitment to American manufacturing, Ford announced today it is investing $3.5 billion to build the country’s first automaker-backed LFP battery plant, offering customers a second battery technology within Ford’s EV lineup.

This plant – called BlueOval Battery Park Michigan – initially will employ 2,500 people when production of LFP batteries begins in 2026. Ford will have the option to further grow its battery capacity at its Marshall, Michigan, plant, which will be part of a wholly owned Ford subsidiary.

With this $3.5 billion investment, Ford and its battery tech collaborators have announced $17.6 billion in investments in electric vehicle and battery production in the United States since 2019, as part of the company’s commitment to invest over $50 billion in electric vehicles globally through 2026. In the next three years, these investments will lead to more than 18,000 direct jobs in Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Missouri and more than 100,000 indirect jobs, according to the methodology from a 2020 independent study.

“We are committed to leading the electric vehicle revolution in America, and that means investing in the technology and jobs that will keep us on the cutting edge of this global transformation in our industry,” said Bill Ford, Ford executive chair. “I am also proud that we chose our home state of Michigan for this critical battery production hub.”

Diversifying and localizing Ford’s battery supply chain in the countries where it builds EVs will improve availability and affordability for customers while strengthening consumer demand. Ford is working to deliver an annual run rate of 600,000 electric vehicles globally by the end of this year and 2 million globally by the end of 2026 as part of its Ford+ plan.

As the company rapidly scales EV production, introducing LFP batteries allows Ford to produce more electric vehicles and offer more choices to new EV customers, and helps support the company’s goal of an 8 percent EBIT margin for Model e by 2026.

LFP Battery Chemistry to Benefit Ford Customers

Offering LFP as a second battery chemistry – in addition to nickel cobalt manganese (NCM) – allows Ford customers to choose an electric vehicle with unique battery performance characteristics most aligned with their needs.

LFP batteries are very durable and tolerate more frequent and faster charging while using fewer high-demand, high-cost materials. This lower-cost battery, at scale, will help Ford contain or even further reduce EV prices for customers. These LFP batteries will power a variety of affordable, next-generation Ford EV passenger vehicles and trucks under development, most of which will be assembled in the U.S.

“Ford’s electric vehicle lineup has generated huge demand. To get as many Ford EVs to customers as possible, we’re the first automaker to commit to build both NCM and LFP batteries in the United States,” said Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO. “We’re delivering on our commitments as we scale LFP and NCM batteries and thousands, and soon millions, of customers will begin to reap the benefits of Ford EVs with cutting-edge, durable battery technologies that are growing more affordable over time.”

Even before the new battery plant opens, Ford will introduce LFP batteries on Mustang Mach-E this year and F-150 Lightning in 2024 to increase production capacity, with a goal of reducing wait times for customers.

Commitment to American Manufacturing

This all-new battery production facility in Michigan will add approximately 35 gigawatt hours per year of new battery capacity for Ford in the U.S. initially – capable of powering approximately 400,000 future Ford EVs.

“Ford’s $3.5 billion investment creating 2,500 good-paying jobs in Marshall building electric vehicle batteries will build on Michigan’s economic momentum,”said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Today’s generational investment by an American icon will uplift local families, small businesses, and the entire community and help our state continue leading the future of mobility and electrification. Let’s continue bringing the supply chain of electric vehicles, chips, and batteries home while creating thousands of good-paying jobs and revitalizing every region of our state. Since I took office, we’ve secured over 30,000 auto jobs and landed multiple electric vehicle and chip-making factories. We’re on the move, so let’s keep our foot on the accelerator.”

As part of Ford’s plan to offer a new battery chemistry and source in key regions where it produces EVs, Ford has reached a new agreement with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) – the world’s leading battery manufacturer. Under the arrangement, Ford’s wholly owned subsidiary would manufacture the battery cells using LFP battery cell knowledge and services provided by CATL, which has operated 13 plants in Europe and Asia.

Ford engineers will integrate these LFP battery cells into its vehicles. This new agreement with CATL adds to Ford’s existing battery capacity and available battery technology made possible through a series of key collaborations – including with SK On and LG Energy Solution (LGES).

Sustainable EV Supply Chain

LFP battery technology helps reduce reliance on critical minerals such as nickel and cobalt and is in line with Ford’s work to create an EV supply chain that upholds its commitments to sustainability and human rights.

Ford already has committed to achieving carbon neutrality globally across its vehicles, operations and supply chain by 2050. Ford was among the first American automakers to align with the international community to limit the impacts of global warming as part of the Paris Agreement and joined RouteZero, a global coalition working toward zero-emission cars and vans globally by 2040 and in leading markets like the U.S., Europe and China by 2035. Ford also was the first U.S. automaker to release a human rights report.

Community Support

The company is ensuring that 245 acres at the southern edge of the site are placed into a conservation easement. This land, along the Kalamazoo River, will be preserved for generations to come and protected against future industrial development. Ford will work with government officials and community leaders to preserve natural resources and recreation near the facility, as part of its commitment to being a good neighbor. The Ford Fund also will contribute resources to help the community explore how to best enjoy this beautiful land.

“The City of Marshall welcomes this exciting new partnership with Ford Motor Company,” said Marshall Mayor Jim Schwartz. “This investment in the local community will lead to an influx of new jobs to Marshall and economic development throughout the area. We are especially excited to support Ford’s conservation easement which will preserve Michigan’s natural beauty along the Kalamazoo River.”

Haadsma on Upcoming Marshall Battery Plant



Jim Haadsma

BATTLE CREEK, Mich., Feb. 13, 2023 — Ford Motor Co. announced today that it plans to build an electric vehicle battery plant in Marshall. The plant represents a $3.5 billion investment and will create about 2,500 jobs. State Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) issued the following statement after the announcement: 

“This is wonderful news not only for the city of Marshall but for all of Calhoun County. A project of this magnitude will create further investments and job opportunities as businesses and other infrastructure springs up to support the plant and its employees. This victory is the direct result of the economic development work Democrats in the Legislature have done in the last few years, and I am so proud to see it come to fruition.”

Up to 2500 Jobs Coming to Area – Marshall Michigan Mega Site Picked by Ford Motor for 3.5 Billion Dollar Battery Plant

Written by John Face

February 13, 2023

At 1:45 P.M. today during a press conference, Ford Motor Company announced that an over thousand-acre battery plant will be built on the outskirts of Marshall. The site location will be on Michigan Avenue starting at I-69 heading west toward Battle Creek.

When Bill Ford announced today that Marshall was the site, he explained that the 3.5-billion-dollar plant will employ 2500. The new facility named, Blue Oval Battery Park, will also come with a pleasant surprise. Ford announced today that 245 acres of the site along the Kalamazoo River will be saved as a conservation easement with Ford offering help to the city in how to develop it. Also in attendance was Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Marshall Mayor Jim Schwartz and UAW representatives.

Ford went on to say that they were excited to be bringing this plant to Marshall. He stated the economic impact for the region and state will be beneficial to all.

Proponents of the site state the economic advantages to the entire region far outweigh the negative. Governor Whitmer has worked hard to bring this plant to Michigan with the Marshall site being “perfect” according to supporters. Easy access to I-94, I-69 along with railroad service puts the site centrally located to manufacturing and supply chain partners for Ford.

The Electric Vehicle battery (EV) plant does have some local opposition, some who don’t want the plant near the city. The opponents feel the economic impact of millions of dollars doesn’t outweigh the negative of this mega plant. Some worry about traffic, housing, losing agriculture, environmental and the negative impact it will have on Marshalls small town atmosphere. Their solution is to make the area a state park, which has not been discussed by anyone until this project moved forward.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for customers and deepen their loyalty.  Ford develops and delivers innovative, must-have Ford trucks, sport utility vehicles, commercial vans and cars and Lincoln luxury vehicles, along with connected services.  The company does that through three customer-centered business segments:  Ford Blue, engineering iconic gas-powered and hybrid vehicles; Ford Model e, inventing breakthrough EVs along with embedded software that defines always-on digital experiences for all customers; and Ford Pro, helping commercial customers transform and expand their businesses with vehicles and services tailored to their needs.  Additionally, Ford is pursuing mobility solutions through Ford Next, and provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  Ford employs about 173,000 people worldwide.

City Watch will share more as the day goes forward. We are waiting for press releases from officials.

Albion College Board of Trustees Still Needs to Answer Questions

Written by John Face

February 3, 2023

Photos John Face & Albion College website

As days have turned into months, months into a year plus, we still have no resolution of the former Albion College President Mat Johnson debacle.  Most of us know what happened but allow me to offer a Reader’s Digest version for those who don’t. 

A Very Brief History of the Mat Johnson Tenure

Mat Johnson

In the middle of December of 2021 Mat Johnson, who at the time had been President of Albion College for just 18 months, verbally assaulted Albion matriarch Hazel Lias, at the college gym during a basketball tournament. He was yelling at her, pointing his finger at her face just inches away while accusing local Albion mentor Maurice Barry of causing trouble, saying he was trying to incite students during a mental health rally which was supporting a fellow student at the school on the Quad. For full disclosure, Johnson accused this writer of trying to incite students when I, like Mr. Barry, literally stood around listening to students speak.

Ultimately Johnson was shown the door by the Board of Trustees on Christmas Eve of 2021.   He had already left town days after his verbal and near physical assault on Lias after allegedly receiving multiple death threats, leaving the College in shambles and relations with the local community beyond strained.

Now a year has passed, and this writer is ready for a chorus of “let it go” “let’s move on” from readers, but really, we can’t until the college administration and Board of Trustees are held accountable for what they did to the City of Albion and Albion College.  The board, as a whole, appeared to be derelict in their willingness to allow a small group of its members to control everything.  That normally is a bad thing in big business and for small colleges.

Maurie Ditzler past Albion College President

I Wish Maurie Was Still Here

That heading has been a constant phrase around campus and the city for going on two years. Maurie Ditzler, the retired College President whom Johnson replaced, created bridges, hell, he created superhighways of partnership between the college and city. Was he perfect? No, but in my lifetime never have I seen such wonderful cooperation between the two entities, Albion named a street after him upon his announcement to retire.  The only people who opposed Ditzler, Albion College and the City of Albion before the Johnson tenure were the same people willing to sell their souls to him (Johnson) because he promised these council members, a few school board members and “community leaders” magic beans, also known as millions in money and gifts.  Some from this same group did benefit financially from Johnsons actions.

Attorney General Investigation – Secret Email Accounts

When City Watch broke the story that Albion College was being investigated by the Michigan Attorney General’s (AGO) office most in the community refused to believe the story.  Insiders at the college were very aware of the ongoing “inquiry” as they called it.  The only problem was that according to sources some Trustees only found out after reading our reporting.

Joe Calvaruso Interim College President

So, the current College administration is now telling Board and staff that they were cooperating and handing over documents when asked by the AGO, yet not once did they come out to the public and admit this was happening.  As the weeks went on, more and more college alums and citizens started to believe Albion College staff, current and/or former, may have broken the law somehow.  Why else would they remain silent? 

Joey Miller Board of Trustees Chair

City Watch has reached out to Interim College President Joe Calvaruso and Board of Trustees Chairperson, Joey Miller.  Neither has released any type of statement to us, not even a generic one as simple as “yes we are currently working with the Attorney General’s office and supplying them with information as they request”.  Neither has replied to multiple requests from City Watch for an interview or comment.  We even used this link for BOARD OF TRUSTEES FEEDBACK FORM on the college web site to try and get any response.  No responses yet.  Funny, isn’t it?  The Board of Trustees asks for opinions and questions yet are dead silent.

Board of Trustees Need to Answer Questions

Email from Harrington

Alumni, students, staff, local citizens, businesses and local government do have the right to know what is going on; the last Board Chair Mike Harrington didn’t think anyone needed information. Harringtons email to then Marshall Public School President Richard Lindsey during this Johnson controversy shows where he was at. That was the problem under his tenure and previous Board Chairs; they looked at themselves first and everyone else second. 

Today we sit here with nothing but questions and no answers.  Is there missing money?  Why do the AGO investigators want access to former President Mat Johnson’s encrypted email account?  What did they find in regular email accounts that caused them to take serious looks at Johnson and other staff?  Is senior staff, both current and past being closely looked at?  Can they explain if large amounts of money were spent on WG Construction and staff with little work to show for it?  Is the Interim President, as multiple sources have stated, in regular contact with Mat Johnson?

Former College Board of Trustees Chair Mike Harrington

We suspect that most if not all of these questions will never be answered by Albion College. There are answers out there and City Watch is working hard to find them.  All we ask from you in the community is to keep supporting Albion College.  They are the community’s largest employer and an important part of our history.

I love Albion College and enjoy spending my time on campus for events that they open to the public.  I ask that all of us make an extra effort to support them.  Now that doesn’t mean we let them off the hook for the actions they have taken against our city, but the college is slowly getting rid of all the senior Johnson appointees who were and continue to bring shame on their fine institution. The long-standing problem that those appointees are causing fear among employees continues sadly. It really is time to clean house of Johnson’s former cabinet and senior leadership appointees. It’s well past time for several members of the Board of Trustees to step down and allow new blood that will try and benefit the college and not trying to cover their own butts.  At this point no one knows for sure if board members are a target regarding their potential malfeasance. One can assume that the AGO is looking at how funds were transferred and spent, and who knew about that? 

More to come.

Happy Birthday – Community Celebrates Jim Cascarelli’s Birthday

Written by Carolyn Gilg

Photos by Carolyn Gilg

January 18, 2023

Two well known Albion icons were on display, Tuesday, January 17, 2023: Cascarelli’s Restaurant and Jim Cascarelli. Tuesday Jim celebrated his birthday with his hometown at the restaurant that has born his family name since 1909. Jim turned 80 on Tuesday and celebrated with his family and the Albion community at large. Among those family members helping Jim & Nancy, were their three children: Erin, Dana and Matt. Many community members came from near and far to help celebrate this historic event.

Nancy Cascarelli serves the customers Tuesday.

Jim was born in Albion at the-then Sheldon Memorial Hospital on January 17, 1943, to Louis and Helen (DeLuca) Cascarelli and has worked at the family restaurant for many years. Jim & his wife Nancy have become the face of Cascarelli’s since the death of Jim’s mother Helen. Prior to his parents’ deaths (dad Louis in 1975 and mom Helen in 2007) Jim worked alongside them, learning the restaurant business from them. Along with their well known and well-loved pizza, Cascarelli’s now offers a full menu with special items offered on the weekends. And let’s not forget all those lovely, lovely nuts.

If you weren’t able to stop in yesterday, the old adage “better late than never” works here; stop in one day this week and wish Jim a happy 80th birthday.

Tom Pitt slinging drinks.

Letter to the Editor – NAACP Resolution & Ashley Woodson Challenged

Written by John Face

January 16, 2023

Below you will see a letter written asking for publication. City Watch does on occasion allow unsigned letters of opinion and this will be one of those. The author wishes to remain unknown due to the sensitivity of this entire situation. City Watch knows the author and has vetted their responses as best we can. Yesterday City Watch published a story that referenced and included the entire document below, CLICK HERE TO SEE THAT ARTICLE.

To the Editor

Resolution of condemnation for City Watch Albion

In reviewing the document, and the included referenced writings of John Face presented by Dr Ashley Woodson, and the NAACP, I must voice my opposition to the resolution on the grounds that Dr Woodson’s attributions and assertions are incorrect.  Much of the complaints are centered on three events within over the past year: the altercation between Hazel Lias and Former President (Albion College) Mat Johnson at a Basketball game, the Redistricting of the city in advance of the 2022 election and the subsequent loss of Shane Williamson as 6th precinct Councilman, and the candidacy of Keena Williams for mayor.

Much of City Watch Albion’s reporting during this past 18 months has centered on the impact that Albion College President Mat Johnson had on our community.  The presented document (NAACP) is biased and makes no substantiated argument that the actions of John Face are outside a journalistic code of ethics.  He has retracted statements when new information was available, and though Dr Woodson claims bias against Black women as a trend, in fact many of the cited articles presented target President Johnson, and his behavior, rather than the Black women mentioned in the article. I will address each point made below.

(In parenthesis and bold lettering are the comments of the author in relation to the resolution.)

“We are the Albion Chapter of the NAACP. Our membership in this pioneering organization compels us to speak out against the kinds of lies and distortions that undermine the Black condition, and that undermine the continued pursuit of democracy. As an organization and as individual members, we hold symbolic, earned, elected and appointed leadership positions throughout Albion. We have directly observed City Watch News create suspicion, estrangement and tell outright lies about Albion residents. We are deeply invested in the future of our city and cannot be silent as our neighbors are degraded and misrepresented.

This includes:

● On November 2 and November 4 of this year, unsubstantiated attacks against Black

woman mayoral candidate Keena Williams, including reference to information that could

only be obtained unethically.

(The two pieces are in reference to the connection between a mayoral candidate, who is financially supporting her candidacy, and her connection to disgraced former President Mat Johnson.  The two articles linked to this point refer to campaign finance records.  These records are, in fact, readily available through FOIA, therefore, not obtained unethically. Tax records are also open records and available to the public.)

● On December 15 of last year, a lie about violence against a Black woman that resulted in

death threats against Albion residents and threats of violence against Albion College.

While one specific claim was retracted, City Watch News persisted in the reckless

disregard for the truth and accuracy when reporting on other people, including other

Black women, who were involved (screenshot below).

(This issue regarding whether or not Hazel was pushed, was a huge issue.  Witnesses around her during the incident made claims of her being pushed by Johnson at the time of the article’s writing. It was corrected in subsequent articles as new information came forward. The linked article claims errors in the college’s document explaining the incident. Face’s writing does not identify anyone other than former President Mat Johnson. The Screenshot to a Facebook post has been retracted and no longer on Facebook, but it has been replaced with updated article.)

● City Watch News has published baseless and unreasonable claims about Dr. Ashley Woodson. The behavior borders on harassment: the paper has referenced her name at least six times in one year (1,2,3,4,5,6), but has never requested an interview or fact-checked claims.

None but one of the referenced articles make any negative comment or claim about Ashely Woodson!

Here are the quotes from the referenced articles making, “baseless and unreasonable claims about Dr. Ashley Woodson.”

  1. “I received a text message from Johnson. He at first offered to meet and have Dr. Ashley Woodson be there also. We agreed to meet one on one in the hotel lobby” (Nothing inflammatory about this sentence, no claims made.)
  2. (Different article, copied text above)
  3. (Again, a different article, copied text above)
  4. “Insiders state that Brown and Ashley Woodson, an Albion college employee have made inquiries as to what are qualifications for the manager position. It is unknown if Woodson is also interested in the manager job.” (There is nothing inflammatory about this. Face is stating a belief that comes from “insiders”)
  5. (This reference is the most opinionated of all references provided and is clearly shows Face’s attitudes towards the former college president, former mayor, and Ashley Woodson.  What protects Face is his claim to be speaking to “sources”.  Is any of this supposition true?)

“City Watch has spoken with several sources over the last few months and some disturbing concerns are coming to light. There is an effort now to eliminate current Albion City Manager Haley Snyder and replace her with either Garrett Brown or Albion College employee Ashley Woodson. Williams is a friend of both, and both have served as advisors on her campaign. It is no secret that Brown has long wished to “lead” Albion. As City Manager he would be able to do that and having Williams as Mayor would give him complete control of council agenda. Why would the college care about Williams getting elected? Well, she along with other members of council have been vocal about their blind support of Mat Johnson, the former President. A College cozy council will give little oversight of the college actions.”

  • (This reference is again connected to the College’s response to the Hazel Lias incident, describing the work Keena Williams and Ashley Woodson did after the incident. It in no way disparages either woman.)   “In the days after this event Keena Williams, then an employee at the college and a member of Johnsons cabinet and Ashley Woodson, another member of his cabinet would arrive at Hazel Lias’ front door to comfort her and offer her support if she needed it. During the visit they were asked about the laptop computer that they brought, and the reply was that they would be willing to help her write a response to the situation. Lias refused the offer and would hold a tell all press conference in the days following that told an entirely different story than what Johnson was sharing.”

● On multiple occasions, City Watch News published targeted, rambling, conspiracy theory laden attacks on other women in leadership, including Councilwoman Lenn Reid, Councilwoman Marcola Lawler, and former Councilwoman Linda Lanoue.

(This claim is based on the relationship between Former president Mat Johnson and members of Albion’s City Council members.  It is true that the college made promises to council members that benefitted individual council members through offering jobs and project financial support (Holland Park, Washington Gardner and low-income housing projects). And it is true that during the redistricting process, numerous maps were created by city staff, one of which redistricted Linda laNoue out of her precinct, and it is also true that the agenda change concerning a map drawn outside of city purview was a last-minute change, avoiding community input or backlash, and it DID redistrict Shane Willaimson out of Precinct 6.  Multiple maps were presented, many would have not changed the face of council, but the one selected just happened to cut Shane from Council? It has never been done before in Albion, and smacks of gerrymandering to rid the council of an opposition voice. All are facts, Mr. Face is just connecting the dots. His basic claim may not be true, but he is asking the reader to consider all the coincidences as connected.)

“Some have insinuated that if the NAACP publicly names this as a form of journalistic terrorism,

we give City Watch News undue attention. We choose to join the conversation now because we are appalled by the influence of City Watch News: it has been cited in City Council meetings and by City Council members, at Albion College faculty meetings and in casual conversations at the Bohm Theatre. Some share these lies (Please identify the lies, nothing presented are classified as lies, which implies intent.) because they want to discredit individuals who hold different opinions than they do, so they derive personal benefit from a culture that bullies and silences advocates for change. Even more concerning are the ways that City Watch News exploits the most vulnerable in our community, particularly those with limited literacy and limited access to alternative sources of information.

These campaigns of cowardice and deceit make it difficult to recruit workers and families to Albion. It makes a mockery of our city’s historic aspirations toward integrity, excellence and cooperation. It tarnishes our city’s reputation and terrorizes potential civic leaders. We believe this is by intention. It is harmful, it is wrong. It is was The Crisis sought to fix, and it is our moral obligation to take a stance against it.

(Again, this harsh rhetoric is not based on facts. It is not a campaign of cowardice and deceit, there is nothing presented that disputes facts.  What it appears to be is an effort to silence the press that is of a different opinion than a member of the NAACP.)

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