Sep 4, 2008

On Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit's Struggles, and Old Memories

(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.


microdot said...

It has been many years since I was in the city of Detroit. I often use Metro Airport and fly over the city and try to imagine my life there.
I grew up around Evergreen and Outer Drive and had Stoepel Park as a huge backdrop for my childhood.
I went to Cass Tech...and discovered the inner city. Ar Cass, I met a lot of black kids and became very good friends. One of my best friends lived in back of Motown when it was in a series of
big houses on West Grand Boulevard.
We saw photo shoots in the Motown Yard with the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas and Marvin and Tami.
I vividly remember the riots in 1967. That was a life changing period of my life.
There's so much about Detroit I love. Every once and a while, I use Google Earth to take a virtual tour of Detroit and note the changes, but I know one day, I will revisit the city.

Mad Jack said...

Good riddance. I gather that the murder investigation of Strawberry the Stripper is still controversial - being opposed by some, pursued by others.

Then there's this from Wikipedia about the Mayoral Mansion, AKA Kastle Kwayme: Although this home is City property, the address is usually kept secret and the mansion has been removed from some street maps.

Somehow, the impression that this situation provides me about the local government isn't a good one.