An endorsement for neither

Oct 31, 2001 at 12:00 am

There has been intense debate in the editorial department at Metro Times regarding who this paper should endorse in next Tuesday’s mayoral election.

We are virtually all in agreement that it should not be Gil Hill. Despite building a strong base of support over the years — in part through keen attention to constituent service — he has been a less-than-inspirational leader during his time on the City Council, both as a general member and as council president. His campaign, likewise, has been often lackluster. The centerpiece of his plan to shake up the city bureaucracy is, in effect, expanding the decades-old Neighborhood City Halls to make it easier to monitor citizen complaints; but how to turn complaints into structural change has not been made clear.

And, at worst, the Hill campaign has been downright dirty, working through Detroiters for Full Disclosure, a group that at best is skirting campaign disclosure laws and at worst is breaking them.

Hill, clearly, would be a poor choice as mayor.

Some staffers here have said that, given the two choices, they intend to vote for Kwame Kilpatrick. We can see why they’ve made that decision.

With his commanding and charismatic presence, Kilpatrick creates the impression that Detroit can, with him, break with the past. His experience in the Legislature suggests that he’ll make the politics of coalition-building work for the city. Although he offers fewer specifics than Hill in some matters, he at least sounds reassuring when he says he can overhaul a city bureaucracy that everyone agrees needs as much.

That said, we think there is a difference between the civic obligation for residents to cast their votes and the responsibility of a newspaper when making an endorsement.

An endorsement means that a newspaper has given a candidate its stamp of approval, and that it is to some degree certain that its chosen candidate has proven himself or herself capable of honorably handling the office to which they are elected. That is why we have decided to endorse neither Hill nor Kilpatrick.

The question marks that loom like clouds around Kilpatrick are too great to ignore. We were disconcerted by his inability to frankly discuss the relation of money and politics; it’s a nonissue, he so much as told us when he met with our editorial board during the summer.

His subsequent refusal to be forthright about disclosing how money in campaign slush funds was spent is extremely troubling. So is the fact that he handed in a campaign finance statement that seems deliberately devoid of the kind of crucial information necessary to make any kind of meaningful analysis of who his backers really are.

Kilpatrick may indeed have a bright political future in front of him, and the Manoogian Mansion may very well be his next stop. But at this point, our hopes for a Kilpatrick administration are more than offset by our apprehensions.

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