Friday, September 19, 2008

Kilpatrick Officially Leaves Office, Setting The Stage For New Mayor, New Start For Detroit

By: Jackie Jones

Embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick left office officially at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, spending part of the day preparing a statement thanking and saying goodbye to his supporters.

“Being elected Mayor of Detroit, my hometown, was an honor and a privilege,” said the 38-year-old Kilpatrick, who spent seven years in office. “I want to thank everyone who supported me through the years. I am proud of the fact that we, as a community, were able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time.”

Kilpatrick encouraged citizens to support incoming Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr., with whom he concluded transition meetings on Wednesday.

Kilpatrick announced his resignation two weeks ago as part of a plea deal on federal perjury charges stemming from a text-messaging scandal that consumed the city for months.
The Detroit Free Press said that before the texting scandal erupted, Kilpatrick had tamed the city’s budget, cutting nearly $300 million in annual costs, continued the downtown development trend that started under his predecessor, Dennis Archer, and was beginning to focus on decaying neighborhoods in the city.

“His ability to lead wasn’t the issue; he just made some bad choices,” Robin Barnes, a Detroit realtor and a former Kilpatrick campaign volunteer, told

Attorney Richard Mack said the scandal surrounding the mayor was a distraction that annoyed some residents and city employees.

“You literally had daily news coverage of one issue or another, the scandal, lawsuits, too much partying, too much spending with the credit card,” Mack said. “You can’t have all that and not have it affect your ability to govern.”

Even before Kilpatrick moved out of Manoogian Mansion and relinquished his post, Cockrel on Wednesday began announcing appointments.

Saul Green, a former U.S. attorney in Detroit, will become deputy mayor. Green also has been a federal monitor for the Justice Department in its oversight role with the Cincinnati police department.

Detroit’s police department is under federal oversight, and Green is expected to help the department meet mandated federal guidelines.

On Thursday, Cockrel named 31-year police veteran James Barron to replace Chief Ella Bully-Cummings.

Cockrel and new City Council President Monica Conyers were sworn in Wednesday afternoon. Conyers is under federal investigation in the awarding of a multimillion dollar sludge contract last year.

According to The Detroit Free Press, Conyers invited reporters to her swearing-in at the Detroit Election Commission office, but Cockrel’s ceremony was private and announced afterward.

The ceremonies enabled them to assume office at 12:01 a.m. Friday after Kilpatrick’s resignation became effective.

The new mayor’s public swearing-in ceremony on Friday morning was expected be a low-key affair in the City Council chambers at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

Cockrel said he wanted his inauguration to be understated and brief, considering the unusual circumstances in which he is becoming mayor, according to the Free Press.

The Detroit City Council voted Tuesday to hold a special election to fill the remainder of Kilpatrick’s term, which ends in December 2009. Cockrel has indicated he will be a candidate.

Candidates must file for the Feb. 24 special primary by Oct. 14. The top two winners will compete in a runoff in the May 5 special general election.

Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, had been charged with perjury, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office -- all connected to their testimony in a civil trial last year in which they denied having a romantic relationship. Those claims were contradicted by text messages on the aide’s city-issued cell phone.

Kilpatrick is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 28. Under the plea deal, he is expected to be sentenced to four months in jail, five years of probation and will pay $1 million in restitution. His state pension will be applied to the debt.

The remaining six counts of the original indictment were dismissed.

Beatty has chosen to go to trial after turning down an offer last week of 60 days in jail and another on Monday that called for her to spend 150 days in jail, about seven months wearing an electronic monitoring device and five years of probation. It is not yet known whether Kilpatrick will testify against her at trial.

While Cockrel has taken the reins of the city with workman-like efficiency, he faces a number of challenges, including a possible $100 million budget shortfall, pending labor negotiations, a water and sewerage department that is under a federal consent decree and currently has no director. The city also suffers from a lack of regional goodwill, which many say was built and then squandered by Kilpatrick, making it difficult for the city to attract and keep business and development.

“That’s a load to put on Cockrel. But the former City Council president isn’t coming in blind. He certainly knows more about city government than Kilpatrick did upon taking office at age 31 in 2002,” the Free Press said in an editorial Thursday.

Barnes said Cockrel represents a new start for Detroit.

“Detroit has been hurting a long time,” Barnes said. “People are ready to move forward, and I think the city administration and the state government and others will support Cockrel.”

Mack told Black America Web that Cockrel’s City Council experience will work for him in some quarters and against him others, but overall, he said, “I think the feeling is people are ready to move past the Kilpatrick years and move ahead.”

Source: Black America Web

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