On Labor Day in 2010, Bill Riney climbed to the top of the Washtenaw County Administration Building to protest joblessness and got billed a whopping $19,000 to pay for the police officers called in (on overtime) to get him down. Though in the end he was only fined $830, in January he was still working to pay it off.
“I’m trying to scrape it together,” the Ypsi Township resident says. He showed up at a reporter’s door while riding his bicycle from house to house on Ann Arbor’s southwest side, looking for people who needed their snow shoveled or, come summer, their lawns mowed.
Rinney, who turned sixty last year, says he’s been doing this since 1987. “I’ve specialized with helping older people. I can do a little plumbing and run errands for them, just minor stuff.” He lives on what he earns but doesn’t keep all of it. In addition to saving up to pay his fine, “I take some and turn it into free hot dogs for hungry people. Back in 2008, I was going down the road thinking of how I could help people, it just came to me: I could turn my landscaping cart into a hot dog cart and give out free hot dogs and pop!
“I go out a couple times a week. I do it in south of Ypsilanti and in Ypsilanti Township a lot. I go to the Ann Arbor Alano Club. I went to Detroit once and got a ticket for peddling without a license, and I was giving them away!”
Riney figures he gives away between 100 and 150 hot dogs each time he goes out, but has no idea how much he spends: “I’m not good with bookkeeping. But it’s a real blessing for me because it gives me a chance to get out and meet people and do something nice. And maybe someday I’ll meet a nice woman!”