Kilpatrick deals Detroit another blow


I have always followed politics in this state closely, so it came as no surprise to me when last Thursday, Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick finally resigned after months of scandal. Kilpatrick also pled guilty to two felony charges of obstruction of justice, no contest to a third charge of assault and admitted to lying under oath. Along with resigning from office, he will spend four months in jail, pay $1 million in restitution, have his law license revoked, give up his pension from the state of Michigan and spend five years on probation.

I was ecstatic when he finally stepped down. I’ve been keeping track of this story since the beginning of the year, and the time has long passed that I had any faith in this politician or the innocence he has so long maintained.

A charismatic leader by most accounts, the hope was that Kilpatrick could have brought about real change in the floundering city. Didn’t we all anticipate that when he was first elected, the city of Detroit might finally be headed for the turnaround it so desperately needed?

However, not long after he had taken office in January of 2002, the rumor mill began turning. Allegations of illicit sexual affairs and improper use of taxpayer funds circled, but despite all of that, voters in Detroit maintained their belief in Kilpatrick and re-elected him in 2005.

But we can’t really blame those voters. This is a man who was intelligent, appeared family-oriented and deeply religious (once claiming that he a received a sign from God that he was destined to be mayor). But most of all, he was loved by the public.

Everyone wanted to believe that Kilpatrick could really bring prosperity and a good name back to Detroit. To his credit, he made many major changes and improvements to the downtown area. He developed the riverfront area, which now includes the Detroit River Walk. He is also often cited with helping bring the Super Bowl to the city in 2006.

But those improvements were not enough to save him from the chopping block, which, without a doubt, he placed himself on.

However, it’s not his personal indiscretions that bother me the most, but rather his blatant abuse of power and position. Under oath, Kilpatrick repeatedly lied about having an affair with his then chief of staff, Christine Beatty. He mislead the city council when he asked them to secure $8.4 million to pay a lawsuit settlement to three police officers who blew the whistle on him and the affair.

When we elect someone to lead and represent us, that person is expected to uphold certain rules and laws and answer for all the things they do. For months, Kilpatrick denied accusations of his wrongdoing, and blamed everyone but himself. While he has finally admitted his guilt and accepted the blame, it has come much too late for redemption.

The fact of the matter is, Kilpatrick gained the trust of the people of the city of Detroit and just as quickly threw it away. This disgrace has taken control of the city over the last few months. Voters in Detroit placed real faith in their leader, a leader who would eventually betray that same faith.

The city of Detroit has seen plenty of rough times. It survived the race riots of the 1960s. It has seen through the decline of the local auto industry. There was even a time when it had one of the highest murder rates in the country.

Detroit can outlive this scandal. I hope Kilpatrick’s political career does not. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and no one exemplifies that more than him.

In a press conference held last week, he said “I want to tell you, Detroit, that you done set me up for a comeback.”

Well, I want to tell you Kwame, you’ve done enough damage already. Please don’t come back.