How It Be In The D

June 6, 2008

Keeping It In The Family

Just recently, my girlfriend returned from the Mackinac Policy Conference and brought back with her lots of great insights. By spending time with many of Michigan and, in particular, Detroit’s movers and shakers, she was able to interact with people who will direct Michigan’s future. One of them is Detroit’s importance to Michigan and its complicated relationship.

The easiest way that I can describe Detroit is as your crazy relative. You know them. You love them. You talk about them. Only you and your family could love this person. Yet God forbid that somebody outside of the family talk about this person the way that you do. The privilege is reserved only for family.

In the same way, we see the craziness that always seems to be tied to Detroit. I wish to be perfectly clear in saying that I in no way feel that Detroit is abnormal or worse than the rest. Many of its problems (i.e corruption, scandal, etc) are also symptomatic of just about any other major city. However, since we are area residents and since we constantly hear about Detroit’s foolishness, it remains fresh in our collective consciousness. For us, it is our reality.

Having said this, I feel that we need to move forward. Not forget, but begin to forgive. I feel that any scandal that further damages Detroit’s public image or results in mismanagement of funds should be addressed and, if necessary, prosecuted. Nonetheless, I don’t that the emphasis should be on what Detroit is not but on what it is.

As much as many of us have fallen into the trap on piling on the bash Kwame Kilpatrick bandwagon, how many of us have piled on the great things about Detroit one? Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is not Detroit. Let me be clear. He is a resident who is mayor of the City. In the way that we view what’s happening, should draw the distinction between Mayor Kilpatrick and Detroit. Furthermore, we need to step up and make things happen for Detroit.

Suburbanites might ask themselves, “What does Detroit have to do with me?” They might live in another county or not even spend any time in the City. What do my statements have to do with them? EVERYTHING! I hate to break it to everybody: if Detroit fails, then we all fail. While Michigan’s government is seated in Lansing, its core is in Detroit. Michigan began with Detroit. Michigan’s auto industry started when Henry Ford build his first cars in Southwest Detroit. When traveling out of state, one of the cities that first come to mind is Detroit. Everything revolves around Detroit. To try separate oneself from Detroit is to be a fool.

If you’re a suburbanite, go into Detroit to catch a game or to support the business. If all that you’ve known is your own small community, try to get acquainted with varied ethnic areas. Try to Detroit’s cultural centers (Detroit Institute of Arts, Orchestra Hall, Detroit Opera House, etc). To close oneself off from Detroit is to starve to death. Detroit is slowly starving. However, if we take action, it can be revitalized and return to its former glory. If its leaders wake up and if we look outside of ourselves, Detroit and Michigan also can come back.

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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.

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