(Note: I originally posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on September 4, 2008.)
Just when I thought Kwame Kilpatrick and his attorneys would find another way to extend Detroit's nightmare of lies, corruption, misplaced priorities and irresponsibility, that nightmare is about to end.
Earlier today, Kilpatrick agreed to a deal in which he pled guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice, agreed to resign as mayor of Detroit, surrendered his law license, forfeited his pension, agreed to pay $1 million restitution to the city of Detroit, and also agreed not to run for public office for five years. In exchange, six other felony charges were dropped, and he will get a greatly reduced jail sentence (120 days; obstruction of justice is a 5-year felony offense).
I am both happy and angry. Happy, obviously, that Kilpatrick is resigning, but angry because lots of money, time and energy were wasted, mainly because Kilpatrick spent so much money covering up his lies, causing his opponents to spend a lot of time and energy in exposing him and fighting against the cover-up. All that waste could have been avoided if Kilpatrick had some sense of responsibility.
Per Detroit's city charter, Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr. is expected to become the 61st mayor of the city in two weeks. He has been working on plans to restore credibility to the office of Mayor and to get rid of all the nepotism and cronyism Kilpatrick brought to the city offices. But as anyone whose parents or grandparent fled the city in the late '60s and early '70s knows, Detroit has light years to go.
There are tons of abandoned warehouses, factories, stores, houses and other buildings that need to be torn down. One example leapt out at me a couple of years ago as I took the ramp from southbound I-75 to westbound I-94. Looking to your right, I saw a large area of nothing but grayish-white buildings in poor condition, all of which looked 50 years removed from happier, more prosperous times. This area is bounded by four streets (Harper, Piquette, Mansur, and Hastings). What really galls me, too, are buildings elsewhere in Detroit that obviously haven't been used in years, yet have "FOR SALE OR LEASE" signs on them. Someone's got to tell the owners of such buildings that they are a loss. They're magnets for drug trafficking and graffiti. It's time the city's brownfields were converted back to greenfields.
Whereas people used to live and work in Detroit 50 years ago, today, most people live in one suburb and work in another, and some have to drive long distances just to get to work (e.g. from Royal Oak to Northville, or from Troy to Dearborn). And all that driving means having your own car--try getting from Royal Oak to Northville using SMART buses, which are not a viable form of mass transit. With gas prices the way they are now, living in the suburbs is becoming that much more expensive for people. Thus, the city has the opportunity to recreate the situation of living near where you work--provided they can attract new business and find ways to attract residents (preferably those who don't have children, due to the next problem on the list).
Detroit's Public Schools are a national embarrassment. Ridiculous amounts of money are squandered every year on buildings and technology that a number of suburban districts would die for, and yet the teaching is inferior, the students don't graduate at the same rate, and neither their parents nor the leadership nor the management seem to care. The failure of the city to properly secure its closed schools and reallocate those schools' resources (textbooks, computers, supplies) to other schools was particularly aggravating. DPS needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, with teachers who know the material they are teaching and are willing to bring out the best in their students, and administrators who can get the students' parents to give a damn about their education.