Monday, January 28, 2008

More on the Mayor

For the fourth day in a row, the text messaging scandal that Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick finds himself in the middle of is on the front page of the newspapers. I've read several comments, both here and elsewhere, that the fact that Mayor Kilpatrick was re-elected after the scandals in his first term is a sign that Detroiters have very low standards; that we're doomed and that this is only a continuation of what has always been going on.

Before I respond to that, I want to reiterate my standard disclaimer: my opinions are my own; they do not necessarily reflect on the Warrendale Community Organization or any other group of which I am an officer.

Detroit has some problems and Mayor Kilpatrick is far from perfect. However, I worry that we as a community might lose our sense of perspective. With that in mind, I would like to recap a few things.

First, in the summer of 2005, Mayor Kilpatrick became the first Detroit mayor to come in second place in the mayoral primary. He was almost eliminated at that early stage - something that rarely happens in American politics.

Shortly after that, Rosa Parks passed away. Her funeral presented Mayor Kilpatrick with an opportunity to both remove the scandals from the public's attention for a few days and, more importantly, to appear as a quiet, committed leader in front of the news media. By most accounts, that funeral did a lot to help Mayor Kilpatrick's re-election campaign.

There was also the fact that his opponent in the general election, Freman Hendrix, had a considerable amount of political baggage, which carried from his tenure on the Reform School Board. That baggage became downright devastating when the Kilpatrick campaign aired a television commercial with footage of Mr. Hendrix demanding that a grandmother be hauled away during a protest at that meeting.

Finally, there is the fact that Mayor Kilpatrick got a considerable amount of support from the labor unions, which are still key political players in Detroit.

After all of that, Mayor Kilpatrick was re-elected with only a 6% margin of victory.

Looking forward, there is the fact that Mrs. Parks will not be having another funeral in 2009. Moreover, it is unlikely that Mayor Kilpatrick will face a challenger with as much political baggage as he did last time. There is also the fact that the labor unions do not seem likely to be supportive of his next campaign since they are already calling him a "lame duck".

Whether or not Mayor Kilpatrick is re-elected next year will, in my opinion, depend entirely on how well the City is managed and on how successful he is in building the Next Detroit that he often talks about. There can be no doubt that he has accomplished some amazing things in downtown Detroit. The result in the neighborhoods, however, have been more of a mixed bag to put it mildly.

The six neighborhoods that the Kilpatrick Administration targeted for the Next Detroit Initiative have shown some significant improvement. The other neighborhoods, however, remain in what can politely be called a challenging condition.

There are 21 months remaining until his re-election. A lot can change in 21 months. The first President George Bush went from more than a 90% approval rating to being out of a job in roughly that much time. If Mayor Kilpatrick wishes to remain in office, he would do well to concentrate on the neighborhoods even more than he currently is doing.

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