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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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