Friday, September 5, 2008

Kwame Kilpatrick: Beginning, Ending, Beginning?

The Beginning...
In November 2001, Kwame Malik Kilpatrick became the youngest person ever elected to be Mayor of the City of Detroit. At the time, although he was only 31 years old, he had been a successful member of the Michigan State House of Representatives. Elected to as a state representative in 1996 to fill the seat left vacant by his mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick for her successful run for the United States Congress, Kwame Kilpatrick was selected by his legislative peers to be the first African-American to hold a leadership position as head of the Democratic Caucus. Mr. Kilpatrick’s political star continued to rise, being elected vice-president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and as such, a “Super Delegate” to the Democratic National Committee. He even had a brief speaking appearance at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
As he stated in his first inaugural speech in 2002, Kwame Kilpatrick was a “son of the City of Detroit”, attending Pelham Middle School and Cass Technical High School. He graduated from Florida A&M University, where he was captain of the football team; but returned to Detroit to teach in the Detroit Public Schools and later earn a Juris Doctor degree from the Detroit College of Law (now named the Michigan State University College of Law).

The End...
Photo Credit: Detroit Free Press

Unfortunately, for Kwame Kilpatrick and the City of Detroit,very soon after he assumed office, a myriad of scandals started to unfold: too many to list here. As mayor, he oversaw many positive resurgences in Detroit,including the completion of Campus Martius, the development of the Riverwalk, businesses such as Compuware and Quicken Loans relocating to the City, conventions, the SuperBowl, the Baseball All-Stars Game,  the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, and the largest new housing boom in Detroit in decades. But he also, by his own actions, brought the most shame and disgrace to the same city he claimed he loved so much. The unearthing of each scandal brought apologies from the mayor, along with promises to "do better".
In 2005, after a hard-fought campaign, Kilpatrick narrowly won re-election for another four-year term as Mayor of Detroit. But the scandals and rumors of scandals continued. Two demoted Detroit Police Officers who were investigating some of these rumors sued Kilpatrick and the City for unlawful firing; and during the 2007 trial, Kilpatrick and his Chief of Staff, Christine Beatty, testified under oath that they did not unjustly fire the police officers, and that they did not have an affair. The trial ended with the police officers winning their case and being awarded over $9 million. But in January, 2008, the Detroit Free Press uncovered text messages sent back and forth on city-owned pagers that contradicted everything Kilpatrick and Beatty said on the witness stand. That was the beginning of an eight-month process, including indictments for perjury and obstruction of justice that concluded, on September 3, 2008, with Mayor Kilpatrick's admission of guilt, a plea deal that includes jail time, and finally his resignation from office. The governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, had already started holding hearings at the behest of the Detroit City Council to remove Mr. Kilpatrick from office; those hearings were indefinitely put on hold at 11:15 a.m. on September 3, 2008...when Kwame Malik Kilpatrick accepted that plea deal and resigned from office effective September 18 2008.

The Beginning?
Photo Credit: Detroit Free Press
On Thursday evening, flanked by his wife Carlita (whose orange-print dress matched her husband's tie), his mother Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick (himself a target of an FBI investigation), and other family members and friends, soon-to-be former Mayor Kilpatrick delivered his "swansong". The almost ebullient Mr.Kilpatrick enumerated the accomplishments of his administration, took "responsibility" for his actions, and intimated that the City of Detroit did him a favor, saying: "...Detroit, you done set me up for a comeback." Although as part of his plea deal, he cannot run for elected office for five years, Kwame Kilpatrick may by channeling former Washington D.C. mayor Marion Berry. We'll see; but for now...


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