(Detroit) I spent most of the day in the city of Detroit, though admittedly my reasons for being in Motown had nothing to do with the resignation and plea deal of beseiged mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. In fact, I was unaware of the looming end to this political saga until I overheard some folks discussing the sudden turn of scandalous events.
In addition to having to leave the Manoogian Mansion by September 18, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and will get 120 days in jail. He also has to pay a $1 million fine, he loses his license to practice law, and Kilpatrick cannot run for any elected office for five years.
I spoke with quite a few Detroit residents today about the plea deal, and most people seemed relieved that this political mess - which has generated a ton of negative national publicity for the city - is finally over.
"I voted for him the first time, but Kwame clearly overstayed his welcome," said one young woman. "But when his mother [Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick] stood up and told us: 'Don't let nobody talk about y'all's boy', it was over for me. The both of them have got to go."
One elderly man said he could have forgiven Kilpatrick for lying under oath about his affair with his former Chief of Staff Christine Rowland Beatty, but that another recent incident made him decide to stop supporting the mayor.
"When you go around assaulting a police officer, you are just asking for trouble," he said, shaking his head. "That's a special kind of stupid arrogance there."
A Detroiter by birth, I spent the afternoon driving to some of my old neighborhoods, looking at the many changes in the nearly two decades since I moved to Toledo. My old schools are either closed or renamed, and even my alma mater - Bishop Borgess High School - was a victim of downsizing by the Archdiocese in 2005. Heck, even Plymouth General Hospital - where I took my first breaths and began life outside my mother's womb - fell to the wrecking ball some years ago.
At least the houses I lived in as a child are still standing, though my old neighborhood near Plymouth and Greenfield is looking pretty ragged. My former home on Mettetal has empty lots next to it where once stood houses, and it now looks like a sort of pioneer homestead, as both vacant lots are filled with trees and underbrush.
Yet there were quite a few children playing in front of the remaining houses on Mettetal, and a number of homes still exhibit the stubborn pride of their owners despite the urban decay that continues to creep in the area. Even a tough neighborhood like this still exudes plenty of life, and the idea that Detroit is somehow "dead" is a falsehood promoted by people who never venture into the city.
"Struggling," yes, and perhaps "blighted" is also appropriate, but even a thieving thug like Kwame Kilpatrick cannot kill the city of Detroit, and I suspect that this once-fine city will one day rise from the imaginary ashes of so many ignorant people who like to perpetuate such stereotypes about urban Rust Belt cities.
Of course, this renaissance may be long after I have departed this plane of existence, but that's another story.