Why is Detroit such a mess? Corrupt leadership.

The neighborhoods in Detroit look like a post-apocalyptic scene out of a movie, half burned houses, vacant lots piled with garbage and empty buildings  that once housed businesses.  It’s been that way for years, and there is plenty of blame to go around as to why.  But once you point your finger at the auto industry’s failure to adapt, the UAW’s failure to allow or encourage that adapting, the riots and any other factor that caused the once great city to nose-dive, you’re left with your finger pointing directly at the biggest culprit, Manoogian Mansion and its occupants over the last several decades, the Mayor of Detroit.

Coleman Young, the late former long-time mayor, use racism to obtain and hold power, making 8 mile road famous for being the border between the city and suburbs long before Eminem made a movie about it.  Having grown up on the south side of 8 mile and seeing it first hand, there is no doubt that money was north, serious money.  But Young made no effort to get any of that money into the city through business investments, in fact, he seemed to desire keeping it out, which helped him maintain power for 20 years.

Dennis Archer followed and attempted to undo the damage of the Coleman Young years.  But too much damage had been done, Archer left office with only a few improvements but a releatively scandal-free tenure.

Now Detroit is led by Kwame Kilpatrick, son of Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, and things are not good. 

Yes, the entire state of Michigan has been plagued by poor management by Governor Jennifer Granholm’s desire to tax anything that moves and too many Republican state Members of Congress willing to aid her in that, but Detroit’s problems go well beyond the state’s fault.

The city government in Detroit has very little money, to say they’re cash-strapped is an understatement.  But the city paid more than $9 million in settlement and legal fees to cover for Kilpatrick’s wrongful termination of 2 police officers after years of legal battles.  You can read about the lawsuit at the end of the linked story.

But, in that lawsuit, not only did Kilpatrick deny firing the officers in question, saying about one, Gary Brown, under oath:

“He was not fired,” Kilpatrick testified. “My understanding is he could go back to lieutenant … but I think Mr. Brown chose to retire.”

Only thing was The Detroit Free Press managed to get their hands on text messages between Kilpatrick and then-girlfriend Christine Beatty that said:

“I’m sorry that we are going through this mess because of a decision that we made to fire Gary Brown. I will make sure that the next decision is much more thought out. Not regretting what was done at all. But thinking about how we can do things smarter.”

Kilpatrick replied: “It had to happen though. I’m all the way with that!”

Perjury anyone? 

The “couple” in question

But that’s not all, not even close.  Under oath Kilpatrick swore he and Beatty were not lovers, they were both married at the time and their alleged (at the time) relationship was a major factor in the firings and cover-up.

But the Free Press got their hands on a lot of text messages between Kilpatrick and Beatty that say, for example:

“I’m madly in love with you,” Kilpatrick wrote on Oct. 3, 2002.

“I hope you feel that way for a long time,” Beatty answered. “In case you haven’t noticed, I am madly in love with you, too!”

“I’ve been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for 3 days,” the mayor wrote on Oct. 16, 2002. “Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love.”

Beatty: “And, did you miss me, sexually?”

Kilpatrick: “Hell yeah! You couldn’t tell. I want some more. “

Don’t know about you, but that’s not stuff we send to married friends.

Now that that has come to light, kind of casts doubt on this exchange from the civil suit:

“Mayor Kilpatrick, during 2002 and 2003 were you romantically involved with Christine Beatty?”

Kilpatrick’s response: “No.”

Suppose it could depend upon what the definition of the “were” is…

Kilpatrick and Beatty, who also denied everything under oath, could now face perjury charges (and should) and up to 15 years in prison.  No decision has been made whether or not to pursue the case, yet, but this story breaking on the front-page of the city’s biggest newspaper should apply some pressure to prosecutors to actually do the right thing, though that doesn’t always matter in Detroit.

During the trial Kilpatrick answered the question of an affair this way:

“I think it was pretty demoralizing to her — you have to know her — but it’s demoralizing to me as well.  My mother is a congresswoman. There have always been strong women around me. My aunt is a state legislator. I think it’s absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore. I think it’s disrespectful not just to Christine Beatty but to women who do a professional job that they do every single day. And it’s also disrespectful to their families as well.”

After the truth came out, the mayor’s office said this, according to the story:

Late Wednesday, the mayor released a statement that said the text messages were “profoundly embarrassing” and “reflect a very difficult period” in his life.

“My wife and I worked our way through these intensely personal issues years ago,” he wrote.

Mr. Mayor, it’s great that you “think it’s absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore,” and salute that attitude.  Maybe you should not treat them as though they are, though.  While the women who work around you would probably appreciate that, your wife certainly would.

Maybe you’ll have some “alone time” with yourself coming up to think about that.

Will Detroit’s problems be solved by having a mayor that can not cheat on his wife?  No.  But Detroit’s problems will stand a better chance of being solved when there is a mayor that doesn’t get into situations where lawsuits are filed by former bodyguards and perjury seem like a good alternative to the truth.  Whether or not anyone like that exists in Detroit politics remains to be seen.  Whether or not that person would win an election in Detroit is a bigger question. 


5 Responses to “Why is Detroit such a mess? Corrupt leadership.”

  1. August 18, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Detroit suffers because of many things. Thugs that run the city. John Q citizen who knows nothing about the many names placed on the city councel. A city charter that gives the mayor power to do whatever he want’s. The main reason the city suffers is the lack of good paying jobs that have left the city and state,jobs that the average Detroit man or women used to have that supported the city with tax dollars. To blame the UAW or high paying jobs that the auto companies used to provide is crazy. What this city needs is leadership that will bring back good paying jobs and a school system that will give high schools skills that the students can use in the real world to find employment. Corportate America must play a role in creating jobs that can give high school young men and women the real reason to get that degree and to go to work in a job that can bring good money back into the community. We need good leadership that will move in that direction or Detroit will die forever.

    • 2 gabriella
      May 26, 2011 at 8:05 pm

      We can’t rely solely on the government, though. Citizens of Detroit have to take matters into their own hands, though good leadership does help.

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