Monday, January 14, 2013

Insider News Names Keith Fair "Man of the Year"

If the owner and operator of Racine's Insider News, Ken Lumpkin, was looking for a reaction - he got it.

The January issue has hit shops across the city of Racine proudly announcing its "Man of the Year" for 2012: Keith Fair.

For the Siren's readers who live in distant shores, far from the mighty Root, we'll give a bit of background...

Keith Fair is currently an Alderman for the city's 1st district which covers downtown and the neighborhood that surrounds it. Fair has been the Alderman on and off for the last decade trading election wins with former Alderman, Jeff Coe.

Keith Fair was once a police officer in Kenosha and was fired in 1982 by the Kenosha police and fire commission by unanimous decision for "poor job performance and poor attitude." According to the report, Fair failed to report a burglary in progress and was disrespectful to supervisors.

After his firing, Fair claimed "racial discrimination" was the motive behind his dismissal.

Keith Fair has worked as a private detective - however his private detective license from the state expired in August of 2012. Fair is the pastor and chaplain of his own church, Judah Ministries, which shared the same address as his private eye agency. Fair has reportedly worked for the school district as a substitute teacher and for Genesis Behavioral as a group counselor. He co-owned a chicken place with the unfortunate name of "Golden Foote" on Douglas Ave - which is no longer in business.

In the myriad of occupational ventures Fair has delved - it is his bar - the "Place on Sixth" which has proven to be his most notorious chapter...almost.

Fair's downtown bar which has now had its liquor license revoked has been the source of controversy after the former chief of police testified before the city council that police were called to the bar more than 60 times in a two year period. That's a lot.

Fair naturally fought the revocation - who wouldn't? He's spent lots of money on lawyers, the city has spent lots of money on lawyers. Fair claims there is a pattern of racial discrimination in the licensing committee's decision - the licensing committee says the bar is a hazard. There is no love lost between either of them.

Fair is now the subject of a "documentary" about the pattern of racial discrimination to be found within the powers that be at City Hall. This fact is highlighted in the "Man of the Year" article in the Insider News. The article tells the tale of Fair's fight for "justice and equality for all the citizens in the city of Racine."

Author and Insider News owner, Ken Lumpkin, forgets to mention he - Lumpkin - is the maker of the "documentary."

It's clear that Lumpkin knows his choice of Fair as "Man of the Year" was perhaps unconventional because the article begins with 3 paragraphs about how Time magazine once picked Adolf Hitler as their "Man of the Year."

Not exactly what you'd want to hear if your selection had been meant as a prize.

Lumpkin also explains that the rules of selection are different for the "Black press." He states that this year's selection was based on who had "the strongest influence on local history and who most represented events of the past year." Lumpkin claims that anyone who reads his paper and the daily newspaper "must agree" that Fair was in the local news more than any other candidate - perhaps even more so than President Obama.

Fair was in the news many times. So we checked the Journal Times to see if he's correct. He wasn't.

President Obama was mentioned in 324 articles in the Journal Times from January 1, 2012 to January 1, 2013. To be fair - those were not all local articles.

John Dickert was mentioned in 171 articles, John Lehman was mentioned in 150 articles, Bob Turner was mentioned in 78 articles, Art Howell was mentioned in 56 articles and Keith Fair was mentioned in 47 articles.

Selecting who had the strongest influence on local history is more subjective and far more open to opinion than empirical evidence. However, we're sure John Lehman's recall win or Bob Turner's retirement are sure to be remembered. The recent passing of Craig Oliver as a candidate for "Man of the Year" would have been both provocative and noteworthy.

However it is the appointment of Art Howell as police chief that fits the bill not only in historic significance but also in terms of being press worthy. The first African American Police Chief in Racine was no small event and not without some sensational articles in local press.

Instead of sticking with the notorious selection theme, the rest of the article praises Fair and his fight to save his bar. Lumpkin believes the Alderman has served the community well because he stands "in the gap for those who cannot stand in the gap themselves." All of which is fine - it's clear Lumpkin is Fair's friend and supporter and the Insider News is his paper to do with as he pleases.

But there is a problem with the article beyond the fact he wanted to do something nice for his friend and tried to hide it behind a phony bi-polar pretense to put him on the cover. Something quite distasteful and wrong.

In describing Fair, Lumpkin employs a quote by Martin Luther King who said (paraphrasing) the ultimate measure of a man is where he stands in times of challenge and controversy and then says:
"In the past year his (Fair's) life has been filled with challenge and controversy. "If someone were to ask me what was the worst year of my life. I would say it was 2011-2012."
That's a very important personal statement - but Lumpkin doesn't explain what it means beyond the closing of the bar.

If you weren't familiar with many of the local news articles Lumpkin refers to as reason to select Fair as "Man of the Year," you might not know that in October of last year, Fair was arrested for the alleged beating, strangulation and suffocation of a pregnant women with whom he was romantically involved and who was also an employee at his bar.

Lumpkin doesn't mention the charges, the incident or any of the articles about this - the most notorious chapter in Keith Fair's life.

From the article on the police report:
"In the car at the corner of Sixth Street and Park Avenue, Fair was yelling at her and when she yelled back he hit her with the back of his right hand, according to the woman. The woman told deputies she pushed Fair's face backward, and then Fair grabbed her by the throat and began to punch her repeatedly while squeezing her throat. She then allegedly slid to the floor and kicked up at Fair, and after saying, "(expletive), you hit me in my face," 
"Fair reportedly punched her again in her stomach and chest while the vehicle rolled slowly on the street. At her home, the woman told deputies, she grabbed the keys from the ignition because her house keys were on the same ring but dropped the key ring on the floor. Fair opened her door and pulled her out of the car by the hair, she told deputies, then removed her house keys from the ring and threw them at her." 
"The complaint said a sheriff's investigator noticed bruises on her left and right forearms, her upper front chest and neck, as well as swelling on her cheeks, forehead, and face."
The case has not been to court - yet - so until then Fair has not been proven guilty. Regardless, it is a serious and ugly charge and deserved to be discussed in the Insider's article especially since Lumpkin alludes something of significance happening in Fair's life.

Domestic violence is an epidemic in the lives of women and it is double the rate in minority communities. What kind of message is the Insider News sending to the women of this community when the discussion of their "controversial" choice for "Man of the Year" doesn't even include a cursory mention of his impending trial for the battery, strangulation and suffocation of a pregnant woman - while it enthusiastically praises him for being a icon of freedom in the fight for equality and justice?

Lumpkin's omitted felony charges in his cover article were not an accident - they were just inconvenient to the stilted story he wanted to tell about his friend, Keith Fair, who has four opponents in his re-election campaign in the February primary and a big court date in early March.

While Lumpkin may have had a right to do it - he destroyed any credibility the Insider News possessed and sent a terrible message to the women of this community they are sure to not forget.

Man of the Year? Our vote goes to Art Howell.