How It Be In The D

April 2, 2008

I Love You Detroit

These were the words that concluded Kwame Kilpatrick’s State of The City Address, although his actions would indicate otherwise. The multiple lawsuits are moving against him and the City and we have lost two conventions. What else needs to happen before businesspeople and Detroit residents realize that Kilpatrick is a liability that needs to go.

One of the biggest parties that I have a problem with are those clergy that insist on supporting him. I view the clergy as the community’s moral guides and protectors. However, I feel that they have failed in their capacity if they continue to support a man that really didn’t show any contrition until he was caught. They continue to support a man that consistently appoints cronies to positions or creates positions for them. It would be one thing if they actually did something to improve the city. Instead they protect him, serve as his mouthpieces or take the fall for him. Instead of being the Pharisees (false teachers), the clergy needs to be more like Christ overturning the moneylenders’ tables. I implore the clergy to serve your community and take a stand.

Also, I have a problem with the regular citizens that continue with the same tired defenses. “What goes on behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors.” “He’s (Kilpatrick) has done a lot for the city.” “Let’s leave the man alone and let him do his job.” “The media should go and focus on somebody else.” These are just a few of the defenses that I hear on the local TV stations. I’ll address these defenses that I’ve listed.

In regard to keeping private matters behind closed doors, I agree. I would agree if these private matters didn’t occur on City time, with a City employee during when Kilpatrick was supposed to conduct City business. If he wishes to cheat on his wife, then let him do it on his time and with his own money. While I am not a resident, I am a City tax payer. I have a big problem with subsidizing Kilpatrick’s extracurricular activities. If I’m going to contribute money to the City’s funds, I want to see some good occur.

I would disagree that Kwame has done a lot for the City. There have been buildings renovated and business returning to the City. Nonetheless, I don’t see improvement in the day-to-day things. On the way to work, I drive by Trumbull and pass old Tiger Stadium. I’ve seen the space left by a stolen pothole, which has been there for at least two months. The only thing that sometimes marks it is the rubber bottom of a construction cone. I’ve driven through portions of Detroit and seen massive potholes. One is even so wide that it takes up the entire lane of side street. I’ve seen bags of garbage and large items left on the side of I-75, I-94 and the Lodge, since bulk garbage pickup has largely disappeared. I’m seeing people leaving the City rather than waiting. I don’t blame them. They’re leaving a city with virtually no services; high property and auto insurance rates; almost no major grocery stores. The bulk of the tax bracket that could have bulked up the City’s coffers has left. Many of the people remaining can barely support their own families. The stores that could provide food, groceries and other goods for Detroit’s residents are in the suburbs. What motivation is there to be a Detroit resident?

I do not think that Kilpatrick should be left alone. For lack of a better term, he is a child that needs to be watched. Left to his own devices, Kilpatrick has shown a deplorable pattern of behavior. Unsupervised, he conducts shadowy deals. Unsupervised, he makes settlements without informing City Council. Unsupervised, he engages in reprehensible personal conduct that has left Detroit with a tremendous political liability (himself) and the source of local, state and national ridicule. Until Kilpatrick shows that he can handle himself, I don’t think that he should be left alone. To be left alone to do his job, Kilpatrick first needs to do it.

Lastly, I don’t entirely agree that the media is singling him out at the expense of other news stories. Yes, I know that part of the media’s business is to sell newspapers and to have high ratings. However, they are also in the business of keeping the government accountable. Kilpatrick has rarely been forthright for an extended period of time. While he did promise to have regular press conferences so that the media and the people could stay informed on his activities and work, it didn’t come to be. When documents were sought under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Kilpatrick fought those attempts. If I were in the media and I have the choice of covering another Kilpatrick revelation or something less substantial, I would go with the Kilpatrick revelation. Media almost always goes for the bigger story. If the media were never to focus on ratings or increasing circulation, then they would be out of business. The constant balance between ratings/circulation and reporting the truth is something that will always be. As long as the truth isn’t compromised, then I don’t have a problem.

In short, I don’t feel that Kilpatrick has shown Detroit any love. Instead, he has shown his contempt in denying allegations that are slowly solidifying. Kilpatrick has shown lack of respect for the intelligence of his constituents and of interested parties. He has shown selfishness and lack of self-control. Kilpatrick has also shown a convenient ignorance for past statements that he has seemingly contradicted with either subsequent statements or in those troubling text messages. He has rarely shown himself to remain consistent in his statements and behavior. It is time for Kilpatrick to live his words of showing love for Detroit and stepping down.

December 15, 2006

Detroit-A Rural City?

I once heard someone at a party say perhaps one of the most fascinating and profound statements that I think summarizes Detroit. He said that he almost thought of the City as a rural town. At first, his logic didn’t make sense though it became clearer as he went on. He said that if you look at Detroit that it depends heavily on the suburbs. Mornings welcome people to the image of the massive surge of people—those people going to work at the office. Evenings are slowed down by the mass exodus of people returning to their homes in the suburbs. The ability to purchase goods is practically non-existent. Many residents venture to the shopping centers in the suburbs. While there are some shops, they don’t address most of the needs of the City’s residents. Detroit can no longer sustain itself independently as if once could.

One thing that I don’t like is when everybody slams Detroit. The suburbs are full of critics who know little if anything about the goings-on in the City. However, this gentleman was until recently a Detroit resident. Also, the more that I thought about what he said the more that he made sense. No matter what anybody says, Detroit is isolated and nothing without the suburbs.

During the course of traveling through Detroit for pleasure or for work, I have seen various segments of the City. Of course, I’ve seen some impoverished areas—houses with big holes in the roofs, burned out houses and streets littered with trash, discarded furniture and other remnants of things that people forgot about long ago. I have also seen rehabilitated areas that show promise. Nonetheless, I cannot yet say that the rehabilitated areas are representative of Detroit as a whole.

At the expense of simplifying Detroit’s troubles, I won’t provide answers—for the simple fact that I don’t have very many. While I am learning more about Detroit, I don’t know everything. I don’t think that anybody does. Also, one thing that I’ve learned about Detroit residents is that they don’t fit neatly into a box. The news would have you believe that Detroiters are muggers and murderers attacking anything and everything that walks the streets. This statement describes a portion of Detroit residents but not all. I don’t think that I could do justice to describing those residents that have stayed and are at the front lines in the struggle to bring Detroit back to its former majesty. I wish that I could say that I was one of them. However, my parents felt that they had no choice but to move in order to provide my brothers and me opportunities that we would not have had otherwise.

Whether we care to admit it, Detroit is isolated. Many of Detroit’s residents have left the City. Stores and business abandoned it. The media has condemned it. People come to work in Detroit but don’t live there. The sad reality is that the City is on life support. If we don’t do anything about it, then Detroit will continue to crumble until there is nothing left but the historical markers that designate the only places worth keeping. Detroit deserves more.

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