Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (2002 - 2008) has been found guilty on 24 RICO-related charges stemming from a corruption investigation led by federal authorities. He has been remanded to prison by the presiding judge pending sentencing. Several of the charges Kilpatrick faces carry a penalty of up to 20 years.
Regarding the local news which has already made national headlines: I am not thrilled at seeing an African-American father and husband taken away from his family in handcuffs to spend time in prison. I am not pleased at seeing a talented, intelligent man fall so precipitously from grace. This should not please anyone. However, I am also not pleased at the egregiously transparent attempts by this man to cover up his self-serving, ethically abhorrent choices with more questionable choices, while currying favor of his largely African-American constituency within the context of Christian forgiveness, or even ethnic empathy.
For obvious reasons, I am not in the camp of people who hate urban Detroit on principle, whether as a hobby, or (for some) even a career. But I stop short of looking at Mr. Kilpatrick as simply a victim. If he is a victim, he must include himself among the obstacles in his path.
Also, for the folks who will be having shots at the pubs for every ‘guilty’ count delivered, hopefully instead of gloating in the “confirmation”of their long-held hyper-animosity against Detroit, they will be compelled to get involved in the efforts to help out the city (e.g., find a non-profit to volunteer at), as any conviction or acquittal doesn’t do a blessed thing to help out day-to-day life here. I hope that urban and suburban Detroiters seek common purpose regarding the more pressing issues currently affecting our community, such as the school education crisis and curbing violent crime.
But also, anyone who is going to be the next mayor (and secondarily, the next city council, which is also up for election this year) is going to have to take an honest hard look at the city’s fiscal and bureaucratic state of affairs. For over 50 years now, tax policy in America, from the federal level to the state level to the local level has seen more accommodations and loopholes for big business and the affluent, demanding less of them while by default demanding more of the working-middle class and the poor. Suburban sprawl was in part subsidized by federal dollars. Manufacturing moved to rural and unincorporated communities, as well as to foreign countries. Educational infrastructure has ill-prepared several generations of youth for an increasingly credentials-based job market and globalized economy. Urban cores, by default, have been decimated. Only in the past 10 - 12 years have we finally seen the “ultimate” consequences of these independent-but-collaborative socioeconomic events, which is the chronic insolvency of municipalities. When the remaining residents of a city are largely poor, many of whom are unemployed or underemployed, this means that there will be a lower overall tax revenue to help facilitate city services.
Whoever ends up winning the mayoral election will have to face the likelihood of some form of state receivership already being in place by the time he or she takes office. On that note, real solutions, not rhetoric, will help to make Detroit a better place to live.