Cynical Synapse

Tue, 12 Aug 2008

“D” is for Dumb, er, Detroit

Filed under: Detroit, Michigan, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:59 pm

The Tigers’ logo is an old English capital letter “D.” It’s supposed to stand for Detroit, but maybe it stands for “dumb.” Detroit has been a struggling city—and region—for quite a while. Probably since the 67 riots, I’d say.

Ok, I live in a Detroit suburb, so I don’t get to vote in the city’s elections. I’m also from the west side of the state, so I’ve not lived all the history. But I moved here during the Coleman Young years. Detroit’s mayor talked about a city surrounded by “hostile suburbs.” The region still suffers from that legacy, I’m afraid. Reasonable people know, however, the city and the suburbs need each other. It’s not a we-they, it’s an us!

That said, I already had reservations about Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick torward the end of his first term. No disagreement, he started out positive and had some great ideas and, it seemed, a more regional perspective than some suburban county executives. But there were some questionable dealings and enough controversy that I was surprised when Kwame was reelected.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Detroit politics works on the same order as the political machine in Chicago politics. It’s just not as highly publicized. I suspect white flight enabled Coleman Young to capitalize on racism and build a machine on that basis. The fundamentals of this machine was there when Kwame took office. Maybe he’s been a crook from the beginning, but maybe he’s a victim of “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

That’s where Detroit is now. City Council wants to boot the mayor. Kwame won’t step down even though he faces perjury charges and felony assault charges, maybe more. Nevermind he’s cost the city at least $9 million in the whistleblower lawsuit that surfaced the whole related text-messaging scandal.

I used to be embarrassed that Detroit was the murder capital of the country. Then I was embarrassed by the so-called Devil’s Night shenanigans. At least then I could adopt a tough-guy attitude. But now I’ve got a lying mayor that has bled the city dry in secret whistleblower deals and blown every credibility chip earned by events like the Superbowl. How can I explain that to folks from outside the region? How many conferences and conventions will the region see canceled because the mayor’s head is actually bigger than his broad shoulders?

To be sure, the Detroit and its metropolitan area have a lot of things to work out. Kwame isn’t the only problem, but he sure has distracted attention from them. Like Rev. Vann said, it’s time for Mayor Kilpatrick to step down before he does any more damage to an already fragile Detroit reputation.

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