Hot-buttered Kwame

Get out the butter because the Kwamster is toast. Friday's double-whammy of a total ban on travel outside the tri-county area and Attorney General Mike Cox's announcement that new felony charges are being filed against Detroit's mayor are the final nails in his political coffin.

As far as we're concerned, the question isn't "Can he survive?" No, all that remains to be seen is when the exit comes, and by what means.

Not that long ago there were well-informed people who believed that Kwame Kilpatrick would still be mayor next spring when it came time to file the paperwork announcing another run for office. Professional politics-watcher Bill Ballenger, who produces the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter, was one of them. But in an appearance earlier this week on WDET radio's Detroit Today program, Ballenger said he's changed his thinking and now believes Kilpatrick's days in office are numbered.

At this point, the mayor's like a man trapped in a pit filled with rattlesnakes. No matter how agile you are, sooner or later one of 'em is going to sink its fangs into you. The only question is: Which one will it be?

There are, of course, the eight felony charges alleging perjury, misconduct and obstruction off justice. A conviction on any one of those charges and he's gone.

On top of that are two more felony charges stemming from an alleged shoving incident when cops working for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office attempted to serve a subpoena at the home of Kilpatrick's sister.

Until now, some of the moneyed interests benefiting from Kilpatrick's reign have kept his legal defense fund liquid. But his corporate cronies must realize at this point that the mayor is mortally wounded, which almost certainly means the flow of cash to pay his high-priced legal team will begin drying up.

With a bevy of pricey mouthpieces on his payroll, Kilpatrick has to be feeling a tremendous financial pinch that is only going to grow more painful as all this drags on. If it drags on.

In addition to the various felony charges, there is a Detroit City Council forfeiture hearing scheduled to begin Aug. 18. However, the council's ability to force Kilpatrick out is not a certainty, and any trip down that path would almost certainly be delayed by legal challenges.

No such questions exist regarding Gov. Jennifer Granholm's authority to shove Kwame out the door. The governor, acting at the behest of the City Council, has announced that she'll be holding a removal hearing in Detroit on Sept. 3.

What are the odds that Kilpatrick can emerge victorious from two different criminal proceedings, a council coup attempt and the governor's quasi-trial? We'd say zero.

There also remains the possibility that our one-time wunderkind of a mayor will finally put some action behind his frequent claims that he loves this city and do the right thing by stepping down.

The calls for his resignation have been growing in both breadth and intensity since this paper urged him to "Just go" in a February cover story. The clamor reached a crescendo of sorts this week with Democratic Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano finally weighing in on the issue by saying that, because of the paralysis this is causing in city government, it is time for Kilpatrick to resign, or at least take a leave of absence. L. Brooks Patterson, the Republican Oakland County exec, also broke his silence after watching Kilpatrick being hauled off to jail Thursday. "It's time for the mayor to step aside for the good of the city and region," said Patterson.

They join a list of public officials and civic leaders and opinion makers who have already issued calls for Kilpatrick to step down.

Even some of the mayor's most vocal supporters have shifted their stance. The Detroit News reported Horace Sheffield III as hoping for, as the paper put it, "some sort of deal to end the situation." Political strategist Adolph Mongo described the mayor's situation as "checkmate."

As we've noted previously, Kilpatrick's mounting problems have implications that reach far beyond Detroit. Writing for the blog "the Politico" on Monday, Newsweek reporter Glen Thrush identified seven problems facing Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign. No. 3 on that list is the closeness of the race in Michigan. Kilpatrick is seen as part of the reason Republican John McCain is doing unexpectedly well here.

"Simmering tensions between predominantly black Detroit and its white suburbs could hurt Obama," writes Thrush. "And McCain's surrogates were handed a gift in the jailing of Obama supporter Kwame Kilpatrick, Detroit's mayor."

Although his lawyers continued to claim otherwise, the travel restrictions and a court-ordered tether — not to mention a night spent in the slammer — effectively ended any pretense by Kilpatrick that he's able to adequately perform his official duties while facing multiple proceedings that could lead to his forced ouster.

Maybe that's why the business community is finally beginning to exert its influence. As the Freep's Rochelle Riley reported on Saturday: "Compuware Chief Executive Peter Karmanos Jr. assembled a coalition of prominent business and community leaders to meet this week with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to broker a deal that would lead Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to resign, plead guilty to some charges and bring closure to one of the city's most shameful sagas."

Add it all together, with calls to remove the mayor building on every front, and there's only one inescapable conclusion: Kilpatrick will just go. All that remains to be seen is whether he has it in him to finally do the right thing and take the step himself, or hang on until he is pushed.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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