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No Honor Among Thieves

OK, so the former mayor was probably a glutton of even greater proportions than previously assumed. Nothing really surprising there.

He is charged with failing to report at least $640,000 in taxable income between 2003 and 2008, the value of the cash, private jet flights and personal expenses paid by the fund. Kilpatrick used the fund to pay for yoga and golf, camp for his kids, travel, moving expenses to Texas, a crisis manager, cars, polling, political consulting and much more, including "counter-surveillance and anti-bugging equipment," according to the indictment.

But you know what does tick me off about the selfish and insatiable appetites of Kwame Kilpatrick and the rest of these locusts who have for decades fed off the good will, donations, naivete and tax dollars of the people of this city? It's not just the criminal acts in and of themselves. And it's not just how cheaply many of these people pimp themselves out.

It's also that we, the common-folk whose money has for decades fueled these big-shots' illicit indulgences, never ever seem to get squat out of the deal.

I mean, if I've learned anything from all the hours I've wasted devouring Mafia movies, it's that corruption is supposed to hook up everybody in the supply chain with something, right? The businessman kicked up to the soldiers, who kicked up to the capos, who kicked up to the bosses. Along the way, everybody stayed healthy and out of concrete shoes, the dry cleaners didn't get burned to the ground and the surrounding community got to go on with life as usual.

No, it wasn't pleasant (or legal) — but it usually seemed pretty efficient.

OK so the real world is far messier, but the principle still seems to prevail in most successful cities. Bribes, kickbacks, slush funds -- they are the oil that grease the interlocking wheels of business and politics all over this country and others. And while I don't necessarily like it -- I can deal with it...when it works like it should.

Problem is, in Detroit, it almost never does.

We all know the sordid, bloody and criminal histories behind places like Las Vegas, Chicago, New Orleans and New York City. Corruption built these great American cities as surely as construction cranes ever did -- and continues to help keep 'em going. And while I respect that there are many dynamics that explain why they've flourished while Detroit falters, I also know that the absence of venal political figures damn sure isn't one.

Oh yes, high-flying pols in other big cities are getting their beaks wet through all kinds of shady contracts and fraudulent fronts and civic funds, too. But the problem here is, our kleptocrats drain the pond until it's bone dry. And they leave the rest of us to make do with mud.

So, to any currently unindicted slime ball politician who may be, even as I write this, plotting to sell out the Detroit voters who're depending on you to help improve their lives: Give something back even as your crooked butt gets. Heck, even the drug kingpins know enough to start up hair salons and car washes and to pass out turkeys on Thanksgiving.

You gonna open up your elected office for business? OK, how about you make sure the neighborhoods get actual supermarket chains out of it? And how's about a few five-star hotels and some real business and entertainment districts downtown? And some fine dining spots that stay open for more than a year?

Surely, we rate better than a mere wastewater-treatment plant, don't we?

The cynic that I am, I generally expect the likes of Kilpatrick, Monica Conyers, Alonzo Bates and others to get caught with their sweaty hands deep in the cookie jar.

I'm just sick of them leaving our city with nothing but crumbs.

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  • 1

    And the most interesting thing is that the Detroit Press is covering up all sorts of things right now.

    Don't forget that Jimmy Breslin from New York, the reporter who spent a life covering the Mafia pointed out that the damned "Godfather" was the worst movie of all time... that it bore no semblance with reality and hideous lives of those in the mafia. In totally misrepresenting and glorifying that life we get people like Kwame and his Father who think that it represents the Ideal.

    It doesn't.

    Thank goodness for the Time Blog.


  • 2

    Let us not neglect focus upon those "Civic Leaders" who threw monies at Kwame.

    Who are they and how much did they "give?"

    As I see it, an awful lot of whites go nuts around blacks, not realizing that we are basically the same. Those whites tend to think that exceeding tolerance must be given to certain blacks.

    That is the kernel thinking to the end of Civilization.

    There is no substitute for integrity no matter what the color.

    And those whites aided and abetted the outrageous behavior and they are part in parcel in the mix as to the tremendous costs that society has incurred.

    They are guilty too and must be carefully scrutinized.


  • 3

    It is easy when 500,000 ot of 800,00 residents (including the school board president) cannot read and write.

    Kwame et al, takes his cues from Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Liberia's Charles Taylor.

    How about this ...a blog comment about Kwame Kenyatta's "strategic default" on his mortgage, in light of FNMA's press release today on how much these strategic faults are hurting the communities and the country.

    This great leader continues to comment on the fromer mayer, when he should be hiding his head in shame.

    He makes 80 K on City Council and walked from a 200K mortgage. I think his wife has a job too.

    What a rotten "leader".

  • 4

    Of all of the various forms that crime takes, political crime is perhaps the most insidious. These politicians run on a platform based on high moral standards. We take them at their word only to discover, long after we elect them, that they have their own selfish, corrupt agenda.

    Crime is an ugly fact of life. If history offers any lesson, it is that crime, unfortunately, is here to stay.

    But Darrell, your attitude toward crime confuses me. Do you accept it in the pragmatic sense that there is nothing we can do to stop it, or do you condone it as an acceptable way of doing business?

    Your statement, "... when it works like it should." really socked me hard between the eyes. Are you giving a free pass to corruption? Is it all right to employ any means necessary as long as you give a little bit back? What message does that send to our youth about what is acceptable in the conduct of their lives?

    Where do you draw the line Darrell?

    A few years back, here in Detroit, a woman died of heart failure while struggling to resisting arrest. The security guard tried to stop her because she left the grocery store without paying for the meat she was stealing, hidden under her coat. The load cry from the community, "Is a persons life only worth a few pieces of meat?!"

    Is this the entitlement attitude you want to reinforce? Giving a free pass to corrupt politicians quickly filters down to the rest of society. 'You owes me' becomes a way of life.

  • 5

    There's hardly a machine in the City of Detroit since the Progressive era reforms it's been a civil service without a lot of patronage. Chicago is perhaps the only remaining example of a machine. Dawsey's main point may be a valid one. At a minimum, a regime that is corrupt should be responsive, doing its best to meet citizen needs by delivering the goods. That was not the case in Detroit. A causal relationship between corruption and high growth? In general, corruption results in inefficiency, not efficiency. In high growth cities there's a lot of "slack" resources so the waste from corruption is not so noticeable. So Chicago gets its Millenium Park, it's a great facility, and nobody really cares after the fact about the corruption involved in its construction. In low growth cities like Detroit, there are few "slack" resources, and a few million here or there lost to corruption is very noticeable, and hurts. It's possible to get both reform government and high growth, as in some cities in the southwest. Credit goes to the local newspapers that have continued to report on governmental corruption and insisted on high ethical standards for elected and appointed public officials.

  • 6

    wow! where to begin. the mafia analogy is very flawed. no everybody wasn't getting a piece of mafia profits. especially not inner-city blacks. i think the business men who were getting extorted by the mob would also disagree with you.

    having grown up in michigan and living in new orleans for the last 12 years i know a little about detroit and new orleans. since katrina hit in 2005 there has basically been a quasi ethnic cleansing campaign going on down here. if you don't believe me you can look into a.c thompsons work on what was going on in new orleans after the storm and you could also look at the indicments recieved by members of NOPD.

    on to political corruption. in a lot of ways political corruption cases can be compared to the so called war on drugs. mainly because the major players never get arrested. do you really think if kwame would have been a bush supporter the justice dept. would have been investigating him? i don't. the politics involved in these investigations is even more criminal than the crimes they are supposed to be investgating. look at what happend to u.s. attorneys who would not go after karl rove's political enemies.

    finally i find it hard to believe the claim that KK is the reason why detroit is in the financial shape it is in right now. when gas was over 4$ a gallon the auto industry tanked. way out KK's control.

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