• 32andMain


Updated: Aug 3

Sunday Evening Editorial: By Joe Malburg

Maybe you saw the photo, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you saw the car the photo was taken from, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you care? No, you don’t. It’s Poop-Gate; the latest scandal to rock the race for Washington Township Supervisor and by far, the stupidest. The long and short of it, and there is no pun there, someone took a picture of Washington Township vehicles designated to dispose of waste, disposing of waste from Washington Township, in Washington Township. Then a picture was posted that same day on the Romeo Rambler Facebook page where one of the page's various authors alleged that “Dan O’Leary is...trucking in poop from other communities” Add in the fun fact that we’ve now received word from multiple sources that the photo was taken from a vehicle that matches the description of one registered to a candidate seeking office in the Township, and you’ve got yourself a Poop-Gate. So how did Washington Township and the whole community end up knee-deep in the muck and mire and, to be frank, poop? Look no further than the source of the fissure, the root of the problem, the facilitator of the feces, the poster of the poop pic. The festering boil that blotches up the pristine profile of an otherwise beautiful Tri-Community that is Romeo/Washington/Bruce, the Romeo Rambler. Nothing in Romeo in my lifetime is or ever has been as disgraceful, disgusting and indecent as the conduct perpetrated by the cowardly social media maverick masquerading under the anonymous alias of “Romeo Rambler”. The Rambler preys on those who can’t defend themselves, exploits those who mean well but might have a checkered past and flat out spreads lies about everyone else who dares to defy their illogical, indecent and ignorant narrative. The Rambler hides behind traditional conservative values, a love of community and compassionate activism. All of those are wonderful platitudes, things that make our community stronger, and were they sincere and not accompanied by hundreds of vile, hateful attacks and untruths, it would be a reflection of all that is good in our community. But when you mock, lie about, spread rumors about and attempt to ostracize members of your own community, you can no longer claim to represent those wonderful things that help define Romeo as a whole.

The Mystery

Spend time around town and eventually the subject of the Romeo Rambler will come up. Who is it? What do they want? Why doesn’t someone expose them? Well, in case you came to hear to find out, that’s not where this is headed. Despite what I think I know, believe I know and know I know, I’m not going to tell you who The Romeo Rambler is. That’s for multiple reasons. One, I could be wrong, I’m not, I won’t be, but I could be. Two, the Romeo Rambler isn’t one person. It wasn’t started by just one person and it certainly does not exist now as one person. On certain days the Romeo Rambler has logged in from as many as twenty-nine different geographic locations, a near impossibility for any individual to be capable of. According to one source who provided documentation, there have even been days where the account has been accessed from different states within less than an hour. And finally, three, I don’t want the Rambler, or more appropriately “Ramblers” to be exposed. Not because I feel sympathy for them, but because I don’t believe you can defeat hate with hate. I want the Rambler to go away, just like I want all hate to go away. Because I believe most of the people involved now or previously want it to go away. I don’t believe hate was their goal, but hate has become their calling card.

So why the recent increase in intimidation tactics? Why are adults who aspire to be out front as leaders fomenting discord over what comes out of their behinds? What does the Romeo Rambler have to do with local politics? Well, everything, sadly. According to multiple sources, including some believed to be affiliated with the Rambler account, the page was started with the express purpose of unseating Dan O’Leary as supervisor in Washington Township in 2016. Before I go a step further, let me be clear: This is not an endorsement of Dan O’Leary, this is not a recommendation to vote for him and most importantly, this is not now, nor will it be later, a call to punish or not vote for the political candidates endorsed by the Romeo Rambler. This is simply information, which many of you have been seeking for years, so that whether it’s voting in Tuesday’s election or just going about your life in the community, you can make informed decisions.

New Race, Familiar Faces

In 2016 the Rambler endorsed Michele Milam, O’Leary’s opponent in the Supervisor race along with Joe Fortuna for Treasurer and Laura Rossell for Clerk as well as a selection of candidates for Trustee. Ultimately, only Trustee Sebastiano “Sam” Previti won a seat on the board. Previti, the lone vocal opposition to O’Leary for much of the last four years has established himself as a voice that some in the community felt was missing. He effectively played the role of foil to O’Leary, successfully derailing Dan’s attempt to have the community purchase the Total Sports Complex as a future site for a Community Center and other recreational spaces. The plan, which was mostly unpopular with voters, was defeated in what was largely an example of politics as it should be. The will of the people was carried out and Trustee Previti helped make sure of it. And now Sam has been elevated to challenge Dan for the Supervisor spot in 2020.

Sam’s direct affiliation with the Rambler is primarily his being endorsed by their pages. Sam is also one of two moderators of several local community pages in Bruce, Ray, Romeo, Washington and Shelby Township, most of which popped up right around the 2016 election cycle, just as the Rambler did. Those pages, while certainly not matching the inflammatory tone of the Rambler, have been widely accused of showing a bias towards specific narratives and perspectives. A charge that could be easily dismissed were it not repeated by independent individuals in each of the various groups.  I reached out to Sam multiple times, through multiple avenues, as did my colleagues at the Macomb Underground and right here at 32 and Main. Even when Sam has agreed to discuss the issues at a designated time, he’s ultimately ignored our calls, emails and direct messages. This is a theme that is consistent across the board with candidates endorsed by the Romeo Rambler. I reached out to candidate for treasurer Mary Berlingeiri multiple times, both about her general campaign platform and her feelings on being endorsed by the Rambler. I received no reply. Candidate for Clerk Joe Fortuna said he never seeks endorsements, but added “I don't know the ‘Romeo Rambler,’ personally... but I appreciate the support.” I was able to establish some contact with three of the four Trustees the Rambler has endorsed. Nolan Kare, the precocious political upstart, barely old enough to drink told me that “Any endorsement is appreciated.” When pressed on the problematic nature of aligning yourself with anyone or anything, Kare continued,

“I can’t control how other people think of me or vote.”

He’s right. But he can control who he aligns himself with and who aligns themselves with him. And he has chosen to be aligned with the Romeo Rambler. Michele Milam, the aforementioned candidate for Supervisor in 2016 is now running for Trustee in 2020. She also agreed to an interview with me, but has not responded to requests to choose a day and time, nor did she respond to my direct question about the endorsement from the Rambler***. Finally there is Peggy DeVos, Peggy has repeatedly defended the Romeo Rambler on social media while claiming not to know who the Rambler is, but insisting “he” is a man. Peggy has made it her personal mission to get me fired in the past week, contacting multiple employers. She has used posts from Rambler related accounts as her evidence of what she alleges is my bias and/or racism. I will leave my thoughts there in the interest of letting the facts tell the story and not my feelings relating to them. The silence and side-stepping are by no means proof of guilt, but they do give credence to the theory. Previti has called for “positive change” but it’s hard to see the positivity through the fog of misinformation and slanderous bards the Rambler releases. Sam can say he is not affiliated with the account, but he can not say he is unaware. And silence in the face of a force with designs on dividing a community is not positive and it is not leadership. The attacks against O’Leary, Stan Babinski, Mike Nicely, Gary Kopp, Dawn Bartolomeo, Cindy Olsen, Susan Heir and Daniel Detkowski not to mention countless private citizens have been carried out with the express purpose of aiding the Rambler endorsed candidates. It seems to me that the bare minimum we should expect from our leaders is to condemn the rhetoric, refuse the endorsement and draw a clear line between what they stand for and what the Rambler stands for.

Do What You Think is Right

And so what are the voters in Washington Township to do? The answer is simple: Whatever you think is right. It would be unfair and inaccurate to say that all of these candidates represent the indisputable enmity and repugnant animise towards those who think differently that has come to be the hallmark of the Romeo Rambler. But it would also be inaccurate to say they’ve decried those inexcusable actions or refused to be affiliated. They’ve made the gamble that enough of the community relates to the Rambler or just doesn’t care. That enough of the community supports the Rambler because the Rambler reflects what this community is about.

There are right around 30,000 people living in Washington Township. A little over 20,000 of them are registered voters. And yet, only a few more than 4,000 residents showed up in 2016 to vote for any of the Township offices. Washington Township is not about hate. The most prevalent message I’ve heard in the past month as I’ve talked to voters and candidates all over the county is that it’s time to end the fighting. I am not saying that means voting for any specific candidate or not voting for any specific candidate. Instead I am urging you to take control of your community and demand your leaders reflect the values you believe characterize the place you call home. There is still time. Demand answers. Demand to know where candidates stand. If you are one of the literally hundreds of people who told me you want the fighting and hate to end, ask your candidates what they are prepared to do to stop it. Email us at 32 and Main for any of their publicly available contact information.

All is Not Lost

Finally, I implore you to choose love. Today, tomorrow and always. I was blessed to grow up in Romeo. I lived in Ray and Bruce Township, went to school in the Village and Washington Township and have spent the majority of my adult life involved with the community either through community service and outreach or as a coach at Romeo High School. Romeo chose to love me. I felt that love nearly everyday. When I was down, Romeo picked me up. When I left, Romeo welcomed me back.

I ask you to extend that same courtesy to the Romeo Rambler.

Poop-Gate is a stain, again no pun intended, on our community. This entire election cycle has been a stain on our community. But that stain will wash out. In a matter of time, everyone who wants to know will know who most of the people involved with the Romeo Rambler account are. Not because they will be marched into the town square and held accountable for their actions, but because it’s a small town, people talk and secrets don’t stay secrets forever. A lot of you already know now, some of you are telling people what you know. Some of you want nothing more to expose them and hurt them. But I ask that you show them love. You can forgive, even if you won’t forget. Because they are human and to err is human, and to forgive and love, well that’s the Romeo I am proud to be from. We don’t need to defeat the Romeo Rambler and we don’t need to defeat any political candidate on Tuesday. We need to defeat hate and that can only be done with love.

***Update: As this story was posted, Michele Milam reached out to speak to us. Regarding the Ramblers endorsement she said “You don’t get to choose who endorses you (and) it’s easier to be gracious. (The Romeo Rambler) is not my style, (but) I’m not totally negative on him either.”

Article by Joe Malburg


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