Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick now resides in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan, awaiting sentencing after being convicted of 24 criminal acts in a trial that formally ended earlier this week. The charges-- all grouped under the RICO statute-- stemmed from a federally-directed probe into alleged corruption of local elected officials in Michigan. Kilpatrick friend and construction contractor Bobby Ferguson was convicted on nine charges, and Kilpatrick's father Bernard was convicted of one charge: filing a false tax return.
Regarding the "lessons" of the Kilpatrick era: Part of what I see as an ongoing challenge is that African American leadership (and activists) have to learn how to evolve in scope and agendas. Being (over)reliant on a circa-1970 black-power archetype in all forms of leadership is myopic at best. I respect Newark's Cory Booker for seeming to be genuinely progressive and responsive, though I'm sure he's not perfect. Coleman Young is deceased. He should be allowed to rest in peace, but apparently a number of folks (virtually) want his ghost to come back and be mayor. But Detroit 2013 is not Detroit 1973; it's not even Detroit 1993, when Young finally stepped down after 5 consecutive terms. The literal landscape of Detroit is vastly different compared to the past, let alone the economic and political landscape.
Detroit/Michigan became overreliant on the automobile-related factories as a jobs pipeline for those who were high school graduates (or even dropouts). The pathway for the unskilled or semi-skilled to get hired into middle-class-enabling jobs just doesn't exist anymore. Entry-level jobs in various service sectors (retail, food, hospitality, etc.) aren't going to cut it. Just saying "shame on you, Chrysler/Ford/GM, you should be building 10 more factories within the city limits!" isn't going to cut it.
Detroit's traditional kingmakers in its political consultants and pastors (especially the megachurch types) have proven to be just as ineffectual as anyone else in cultivating genuinely forward-thinking leadership. Especially in the modern day, so much of all you have to do is to talk the right churchy talk to get the bishops (and the devout congregations, especially women and senior citizens) in your corner, and you almost have it made. In Kilpatrick's case, he was able to hit all the right notes to get religious folks on his side; he was also able to talk a good game with the Pan-African folks to get them on board (name-checking Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Dr. Kawanza Kunjufu, etc.), and since he was Gen X/hip-hop, he could recite his favorite lyrics and talk the right lingo to get the "street" and youth demographic on his side. Unfortunately, it seems he was mentored by some of the worst in old-school political-machine profiteers.
Kilpatrick continued Dennis Archer's arc of bringing further redevelopment investment downtown and midtown, but the broader swath of the city's neighborhoods languished. Bond debt was repeatedly sought out to plug holes in the annual budget, and late filings became a regular trend. Despite all of the bizarre misadventures and public scandals, a significant demographic of folks continued to openly support him-- hello, cognitive dissonance-- based in part on the notion that black leadership (including the aforementioned pastoral class) are supposed to be "high steppers"/wealthy in all forms, in order to hold court with the mainstream (white) culture. Kilpatrick reinforced this notion in select statements, defending exorbitant expenditures on city credit cards as simply what you have to do in order to attract investors. His police bodyguards rivaled the Presidential secret service in their proliferation. All in all, it was a glaringly self-serving administration, paying lip service to looking out for its citizenry while "can't stop the hustle" was the real mission statement. Amazing.
On another level, I would challenge anyone in the suburbs or out-state who is "partying" because of the verdict to come to find a non-profit in the city to dedicate some time to, get to know people beyond the barely-veiled racist lens that many remain comfortable in viewing urban Detroit with.