As a mayor, Detroit’s Kwame Kilpatrick has charisma, intelligence and a vitality that makes you want to believe in him. Unfortunately, he also has a record that makes you want to give him a good shake.
Self Interest Often Overshadow Successes
Although credited with bringing major sporting events and new business to the city, many of the deals struck could arguably be attributed, at least in part, to former Mayor Dennis Archer or, in the case of the Super Bowl, William Clay Ford Jr. Whatever Kilpatrick’s part ultimately, it is certainly overshadowed by budget crises, massive layoffs and seedy scandals that have plagued his administration.
The scandals consist of several episodes, the bottom line of which is that during a period in which Detroit was forced to layoff a huge amount of its employees and cut already impoverished city services, including bus transportation, Kilpatrick continued to live extravagantly, maybe even wildly, with the city often picking up the bill.
This is old news to be sure; but anytime the mayor is accused of misconduct, it has to be put into context with what’s come before. The Mayor took the stand last week to answer allegations brought against him by Gary Brown, the former deputy police chief. The Mayor is the defendant in the whistleblower lawsuit and is accused of firing Brown to avoid the deputy police chief's investigation into Kilpatrick’s personal bodyguards.
Negative for Detroit
Aside from whether or not the whistleblower accusations are true, the attending publicity is a negative for Detroit, especially as the seedy details, including whether or not the Mayor was having an extra-marital affair, are explored with the Mayor on the stand. Another negative for Detroit is that the Mayor’s attention and focus is on defending himself rather than on his job.
Kilpatrick has all the Ingredients to be a Great Mayor
Who knows, the best may be yet to come as Kilpatrick matures into his mayoral role. He’s certainly a man with a full personal arsenal to do right by the city, if he can only escape the time-consuming shadow of his own self interest.