Metro Times: Let’s begin with the budget. City Council took, at least in our memory, an unprecedented action of overhauling your proposed budget to the extent that it did, and the notoriously fractious council was unanimous in that action. What’s that say about the feasibility of the budget you proposed?
Kwame Kilpatrick: If you really read it, it’s just changing money from the places where we cut it — transportation, health, recreation — and moving it to police and fire. We have a difference of opinion on what the deficit number would be as we did last year. Having an 8-0 veto override is not unprecedented. Coleman Young, Dennis Archer, everybody had that.
MT: On budgets?
Kilpatrick: Oh, yeah. That’s not a big deal. The big deal was we’re in a transitional period, and the amount of money we’re talking about is different, and council actually took a budget that took us from the end of September to April 12 to put together, and they did one in two weeks.
When you look at it, the biggest difference between our two budgets are the assumed deficit numbers — they’re at $102 million, we were at $67 million. But last year, they were $50 million over where we were, and it came back to be $2 million from where our number was, and I think the same thing is going to happen this year.
At first they were saying our budget was unrealistic, it would never happen, there were too many assumptions in it. They took 90 percent of the assumptions and put it in theirs. The only thing that’s not there is the $10 million savings in transportation, $6 million in Cobo, and the two taxes we wanted to institute — the fast food and the real estate transfer. We’ll make that up from Lansing with income tax up to one-tenth of 1 percent that we lost, and we’ll put back. So now they’re talking about $16 million difference between their budget and our budget. And $16 million sounds like a lot of money in here, for sure, but in a budget of $1.2 billion it’s not a lot of money that you have to make up.
The rhetoric didn’t match what they did. We just believe that, being a city, there are some core services you have to have. Police, fire, street cleaning — those are three of the most important. So we chose not to cut police and fire to the degree that they did, and cut in other places. That’s the main difference between the two budgets.
MT: One thing we’ve never been able to understand here, in a lot of discussions, is that your assumptions seem to rest on really swampy ground. They were presented as though they were things that were going to happen or had already happened. In the case of the DPOA, for example, they have said all along there is no way we’re going to do that.
Kilpatrick: They’ve never negotiated with the city. They wait to go to binding arbitration every time.
MT: So how can you rest a very large part of your budget on something history shows they’re not going to do?
Kilpatrick: It’s the same thing we did last time — you make your appeal to the arbitrator. In this town, the union rules, and police and fire have a very special rule called 312 binding arbitration, which says the DPOA can make profound statements all the time on what they’re not going to do, and force you to binding arbitration. They don’t want to negotiate. We negotiate with all the rest of the 47 bargaining units in the city of Detroit, but police are the worst. Fire is much better.
MT: That still leaves you not knowing how it’s going to come out.
Kilpatrick: Yeah, but you have to have some measured assumptions in every budget. You have to have a measured assumption that says we’ve got to cut some costs here in the police department. I can’t say we’re going to do it on the city side or the civilian side and not do it on the police side.
In every budget year, we’re balanced, ever since I’ve been here. In 2002, when I walked into office, we had a $101 million hole that we had to balance. We ended that year with an $8 million surplus. Two years later we had a $177 million more pension payment than we had three years before. We had $120 million more health care payment than we had three years before. We lost revenue sharing of $130 million. So, you have assumptions in the budget but these are things you can’t assume.
By law in the city of Detroit, whenever the pension fund loses, the general city fund has to make up the liability. So our unions never lose. Our pension funds never lose. That is the problem in the city of Detroit right now. We have to get some relief there, because they’re dragging us deeper and deeper into a hole.
MT: Another large part of your budget proposal seemed to rest on some real uncertainty, and that was regional cooperation. DARTA now is gone.
Kilpatrick: We’ll probably pass another piece of legislation. We didn’t put DARTA in the budget. I thought we could recoup savings from DARTA, but we put a $10 million savings in transportation.
MT: But there are a lot of other parts of your budget that rest on regional cooperation.
Kilpatrick: Just two.
MT: So how are those other two areas going to happen?
Kilpatrick: Two things in the budget I said we can get — regional cooperation on Cobo, to save $6 million. Same thing with $10 million in transportation. When you raise the rate on the bus thing for a quarter, you get $8 to $10 million. So you can save dollars.
Right now people with disabilities ride our buses for free. They ride no other buses around here for free. If you just set a 50-cent rate for people with disabilities on the bus you can raise $16 million. What we put in the budget was reducing the transportation subsidy for the general fund $10 million, and how I explained we could do that is DARTA. If DARTA is not going to be there, then I need to come up with a new plan in January.
Just like at Metro Times, you all may not be meeting your numbers in January, there has to be a meeting, and somebody says, what do we need to cut? What do we need to do? And that’s how I think the budget works. If we’re $16 million away from meeting our number, and we’re in January and we have a July 1 date, then we need to do that. And that plan could include 50-cent charge for people with disability on our buses, since right now, we don’t have a definition for people with disability. Anybody that’s mentally ill or physically handicapped rides our buses for free. You’ve got a lot of people running the four-five to the bus, getting on and saying, "Hey, I’m mentally disabled."
MT: The cuts you announced in January were to address the hole from the previous fiscal year.
Kilpatrick: Exactly, which is by law what we have to do before we do the April 12 budget. And part of the April 12 budget is to address the budget in the previous year. The main parts of that deficit, just so I’m clear — you hear this $300 million number all the time. So how did you balance from last year April 12, and you have a $300 million number?
Well, our health costs jumped $120 million. When Blue Cross/Blue Shield calls, and says we’re going to raise your health benefits 14 percent, that’s $43 million for me. And, every year we budget the health rise.
Our economists come in, all these smart folks, sit around the table just like this and they tell me, "We believe your income tax revenue is going to be X, and you should budget this. We’ve had several meetings, we’ve looked at the economy." They’ve been wrong every year I’ve been here. They’ve been $30 million off, $20 million off, every year. They were $37 million off last year.
MT: Time to change economists?
Kilpatrick: We’ve changed them twice. These are people who are foremost, noted economists. I don’t want to mention names, but everybody quotes them. The next thing they do is, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and all the HMOs come in and say, "This is what we believe your increase will be for the city, looking at the health of your employment base and all that. Looking at all this, your increase is going to be 12 percent." And we budget it.
Well, they’ve been wrong every year. My first year they said 12 percent; it was 18. My second year they said it would be 11 percent; it was a 23 percent increase. The third year they said 9 and it was 10. So they were close, that third year. But we budget the number that they tell us.
MT: But given that, that’s not a new situation in this country or this city. Things like that have been going on for a while with the economy—
Kilpatrick: Not in the 1990s.
MT: But we’ve been in the situation we’re in now, so you know that’s always a possibility. Given that, even though you don’t know exactly what the rest is, you know that’s liable to be a trouble area, especially since all your economists have been wrong. Why would you count on DARTA, which you’ve already answered, but also on regional cooperation on much of anything, much less Cobo, especially given the very clear history of response from Oakland County, from L. Brooks Patterson and others for that matter?
Kilpatrick: When we put out the DARTA legislation, we all filed a suit together. We all jointly went out and did a search for an executive director. We all got a finalist for executive director. We all had a meeting and said this is where we’re moving. We all had a coordinating meeting between SMART and DDOT. We all have been moving very forward, standing strong, saying that this is the direction we’re moving. So in that particular case, that’s not true. On that particular issue of regional cooperation, we all agree. And we’re all in the same place.
Regional jail stuff? Health Department stuff? I didn’t need [Wayne County Exec Robert Ficnao’s] cooperation for that. We relieve the county of responsibility that by state law, they’re supposed to provide. There’s some things they’re supposed to do, like house inmates.
Part of the reason the Department of Justice is here is because big bad Detroit in the 1960s said we’re going to build our own jails, we don’t need the county sheriff. That’s crap. Every other community in this state, in this country, the city does not house its own inmates. So we have people dying in confinement, we have people being locked up with felonies with people being locked up with misdemeanors, and I said, I’m getting out of that business. I don’t need him to cooperate. The DOJ told me to get out of the business, and the law says that he’s supposed to lock them up. Now I would love to have a cooperative agreement, but hey, I don’t just drop them off.
So no, there was no regional, feel-good conversation, and I really didn’t give a damn about that. There’s certain things that Detroit has been doing for so long. There’s county roads in the city. Outer Drive. McNichols. I love Bob Ficano, great guy, and he’s really been coordinating with us well, so I’ll put that out there.
But I’ve been shoveling those streets, and part of the reason Mayor Archer got killed is because he was shoveling more streets than he was getting money from MDOT for. And we clean up all the county roads, we cut all the county’s grass, so when I came in, I said, that’s over. You have to do that.
They get money from MDOT to provide those services. They get money from the Michigan Department of Corrections to do that in the city of Detroit, and for years they were taking that money and doing it for everyone else in the county and not us.
And there are some Health Department things too, sanitation issues, that they’re supposed to provide for the city.
MT: Why wasn’t that made clear?
Kilpatrick: I did make that clear. One of the problems that I have, the biggest problem, is in communicating with you all. It’s so hard for me to do that. I get in the way of that. But this is exactly what I was saying.
MT: Has it moved forward?
Kilpatrick: The conversation? No. But what has moved forward is the savings. We’re at the negotiating table with the unions in Cobo. But the regional conversation, no, because you know the race marginalization of the city of Detroit is always going to step up, and it’s so easy to say, "Those people down there, they don’t know how to do things," and everybody says, "Yeah, I guess those people down there don’t."
MT: Is this region ever going to get beyond that?
MT: We tend to agree with you, but you’re the mayor of Detroit, so what do you do about that?
Kilpatrick: Let me just tell you why it’s going to get past it: outside pressure. I think more and more we have new people coming into the mix that are not a part of the 1940s, 1960s Detroit history, that don’t wear that on their shoulders as a badge of courage, both in the African-American community, the Hispanic and Latino community, the Arab community or the white community.
I think that there’s going to be a time here — I thought it would happen faster but it’s not — where people are not so dug in to those positions because the survival of the region economically is going to depend on it.
I went to Israel, and we had a chance to meet with Mr. Arafat and people at the entire Palestinian organization, and then we went to the Knesset and met with the Israelis. And they said, it was horrible, they don’t like each other for real, this is deep. But one thing both of them said is, we have to figure out a way, because tourism is our regional industry.
When I heard them say that, if Palestine and Israel can talk about regional cooperation for the economy, then I’m sure Oakland County and Detroit can have a conversation in the future. I think it’s slowly changing too. You have a very storied history in a person like Brooks Patterson. He made his career on race relations. His whole career has been about that. He’s now become a kinder, softer, middle-of-the-road Brooks Patterson, but he’s still Brooks Patterson.
MT: He doesn’t have the constituency that he did.
Kilpatrick: And that’s what I’m saying. Because Oakland County has moved. I have a lot of respect for him because he says what he means and means what he says. And I’d rather deal with a guy like that than a guy that’s snowing me all the time.
But, at the same time, he’s still caught in the light that Oakland County will be all right, and we can just trash Detroit. We see now that some of the dilapidation, the degradation, the economic slide is moving into Oakland County. Some of the older suburbs are now getting caught in that. Southfield, which 20 years ago used to be the mecca for where people wanted to move, now, it doesn’t really get good until 10 Mile.
At some point, there’s going to have to be a look at how do we regionally cooperate with each other. And I think Brooks, the reason why he got on board with DARTA, because he wasn’t when I started the legislation, is for that reason. People say, OK, we’ve got to at least move people.
MT: Is there anything you can do that you haven’t done to help move that process forward?
Kilpatrick: One thing I can do better is communicate our positions better. Which is why, when taking over the water department was out there, I went out to the Macomb County Commission, I went out to the Oakland County Commission, I went and met with the Wayne County Commission, made our position clear, tried to deliver information through the mainstream media. I think that part of the problem we’ve had, and I’ve learned this in the past six months, is that our communications have been not good on a lot of issues, to say the least.
MT: Do you understand the reasons why?
MT: What are they?
Kilpatrick: I’m trying to be careful how I say this. I think that a lot of people have been not real experienced in dealing with the level of communications we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
MT: On our side or your side?
Kilpatrick: Our side. I don’t know anything about your side. And at first, I was always mad at your side.
MT: It showed.
Kilpatrick: I’ve been in politics since ’96. I’ve never been the guy everybody hated. That was different for me. I was easy to talk to. And my whole life, birth to the time I was elected mayor, I’ve never been caught up in any rumor thing. Everybody had it in high school, college; I’ve never had that. When people said things about me, it was always something that was true. I never had to defend that, so I never really had to organize.
People knew who I was. I don’t hide. I’m out, I’m 300 pounds, six-four, big guy with an earring in his ear, you can see me. The speculation of "he was there," I never had that before. So to be able to organize communications was a big issue for us.
But the other thing that I think we do well in this regional relationship … is that we tell the truth. We’re straight up. You’re not taking over our water, here’s why. I can work with you on regional transportation, this is why. You’re wrong on Cobo, and this is why.
Race will be an issue in this region. When they did the whole thing on race in the paper and on TV, I was the only one between McNamara, Archer and Brooks Patterson. All of them said, "We don’t have a race problem in southeastern Michigan," and I said bull. We’ve got a race problem. We’ve got to deal with it.
MT: On the subject of race, this was a small thing — that little blip about buying bottled water for city employees — but you gave a very peculiar, non sequitur-like response, that really went to an issue that was not there until you brought it up. You said we’re not going to ask "Massa" — the word you used — whether or not we can drink water; if my employees want water, we’re going to get them water. It became it an entirely different thing when you injected race into it.
Kilpatrick: I think that was in it the entire time.
I’ve been careful since I’ve been in office not to do that, but that was embarrassing to me. And it was oppressive. And from a perspective of a media person, they might not have gotten that, I don’t know if they did or not. But to show African-Americans getting water — there was not one white person shown in the story except the guy bringing water — was something that they didn’t deserve, and relating [water costs of] $60,000 to an economic crisis, I think first of all it undermined the intelligence of this entire city, and it was oppressive and degrading to people who work in city government. And it didn’t stop until it was called out in that way.
Come on, man, this is water. We’re talking about water for our employees. We’re trying to create a positive work environment where people choose us as employer of choice. Our employees have been beat down for years.
[skip due to tape change]
[I don’t think] what we we’re doing and our focus, particularly in the Manoogian Mansion, would have legs with someone who didn’t look me. And that wasn’t necessarily black or white. I think that a lot of the coverage and what people choose to cover about our city, I get in the way sometimes. I don’t know if that’s race — it’s not race on the part of the media, but it’s an institutional perspective that I think is out there.
MT: What do you mean when you say you get in the way? Listen to this answer
Kilpatrick: The power and the presence of Kwame Kilpatrick, "the legend of Kwame Kilpatrick," has become bigger than Kwame Kilpatrick could ever be or has ever been. No one believes I’m boring, like I don’t go home and just hang out with my kids or go to all their games. All the parents and all the teams my kids are on, they see me. But when it comes in the news that I was somewhere else, they can even think, wow, even though I see him at every game, he picks his kids up, he’ll do this and that, he couldn’t be that guy. Because the look, the presence, particularly of African-American men — once "hip hop" was attached, oh, man, I was gone then.
It’s that powerful presence thing that I think we’ve got to get over. But that’s part, I think, of the diversity that we need in this mix in Detroit, in this rigid corporate structure in Detroit. We need something different to break it. I just think that I get in the way. I, the presence of Kwame Kilpatrick and that legendary story, gets in the way sometimes of 7,400 new houses going up, or 100 projects going on in the downtown area, numerous in the neighborhoods, the parks being cut every seven to 10 days, which is something that has never happened. Actually shoveling the snow on side streets. I think I get in the way of people actually knowing that stuff is going on.
MT: When you say people don’t see you as a boring guy, that you’re a family man and they don’t see that, how does that address things like the D.C. cops saying they just weren’t going to provide security for you anymore because of all the bar-hopping or whatever?
Kilpatrick: It’s always interesting that no one else sees it except the cop. When I walk into a place like Metro Times, or I walk into Cobo Hall like I just did, I talk to 20 people before I get to the actual place that I’m going. I might sign an autograph. I take two, three pictures. No one’s seen me anywhere except these particular police officers who talk to the paper.
I do have fun, but I don’t do anything to embarrass myself, my city or my wife or my children. So bar-hopping — that’s probably something I stopped doing when I left college. I did it before, and I had fun doing it. But when I raised my hand and accepted this oath, I was serious about it. And I knew what type of things would be attached to me. I knew that if went in a club in the city of Detroit, people would say that I was there. So I don’t go. And I haven’t gone.
The thing about it is, I used to drink, have fun, hang out. I stopped drinking the day I was inaugurated. Not because I was a good guy. Because I didn’t want anybody to see me doing that.
MT: So all of this stuff’s fabrication? All the things that have stirred all the controversy?
Kilpatrick: No, not all the stuff. But everything that’s spun out of the Manoogian [party rumor] is fabrication. Everything. Each part of it, every single section. Which is why I invited anybody to investigate that wants to investigate. I didn’t know it would take so long.
MT: You were the guy who was going to change everything. You were going to be the young blood, the fresh voice, and get away from all the entrenched bullshit. But it’s more of the same and then some. Listen to this answer
Kilpatrick: Changing stuff doesn’t look pretty. It’s not a pretty process. It’s a very, very ugly process. When you say, I’m going to change the police department, make it run better, you’re going to have rebellion up the wazoo, because it’s been running this way forever. We’ve been approving this type of overtime forever. We’ve had these types of work rules, forever. When you bust that and you start changing things and moving seniority rules and challenging the union? That’s ugly.
When you say we’re going to cut grass in a two-workday shift, you’re going to have people marching in front of your house, picketing you, taking you to court, but you’ve got to win, and we won. This right here is an ugly process. I took on a lot of fights at once.
One of the fights I did not have to have was with the media. When I got into a fight with the media, it made all the other stuff a little harder, but we didn’t stop fighting on that front. It has not been easy in this environment, and I think I made it harder on myself in the way that we related to you and communicated with you.
Just to wrap up regionalism, I think the biggest area where we can really make some headway is transportation. Although Cobo’s been splashed on the front pages, it’s not nearly as important as transportation. And it’s an area where you have everybody agreeing. [Wayne County exec] Bob Ficano, [Macomb County Commission chair] Nancy White, our commissions, our boards, [Oakland County exec] Brooks Patterson and his commission, we all agree.
We’re moving now with new legislation. There is a meeting today with the Chamber of Commerce, trying to get everybody back on the same page on what the [new] DARTA legislation should be. It’s going to have bipartisan support, at least the four counties around us are going to support it.
MT: When you say everybody agrees we need it, does everybody agree on how it should be done?
Kilpatrick: No. Everybody doesn’t agree on how we should pay for it.
MT: So you would argue that you’re making substantial progress on regionalization?
Kilpatrick: On transportation. Yeah, I think we’re making substantial progress in that area. But I think it’s the biggest issue to get to a whole regional conversation. Because the next thing is infrastructure — lighting, roads, water — all the other stuff that comes in there.
But transportation is … the economic driver. If you can move people effectively and efficiently, you can start to grow economic development in different places around the region that connect with economic development in the city.
MT: You’ve been mayor for almost four years. Do you see yourself as having any responsibility for the bad blood between Detroit and the inner-ring suburbs?
Kilpatrick: I’ve never been asked that question. I don’t think I have anything to do with the bad blood. I think there’s a historic bad blood that existed far before I became mayor or was even born.
I think this started well into the 1950s, it erupted in 1967, and I think it’s been since Coleman Young was elected in ’74, and the "hit Eight Mile Road" statement was seen by suburbanites as one thing and by Detroiters as another. He then became the central figure in the division, until Brooks Patterson came along and started talking. And they became central figures in this rift between Detroit and the suburban communities.
I think I’ve had very little to do with adding to the bad blood. When Mayor Archer came in, there was a feeling that people felt more comfortable with the leadership in Detroit. But nothing changed economically. He was just perceived as being a nice guy. But there was no additional support or anything [laughs]. But it eased tension, I believe, and I think there’s still some ease of tension. You see that every weekend here in the city of Detroit. We see it for the development potential that we have.
MT: You say nothing really happened under Archer, that he was perceived as a nice guy. But there are two stadiums, the housing developments going on …
Kilpatrick: But that ain’t — that’s not what I said. I don’t want you to misinterpret that. We were talking strictly about the relationship between the suburban community and the city of Detroit. I didn’t say nothing really happened. I said nothing really happened in the improvement of that relationship, no economic things from the suburbs changed.
I didn’t make a blanket statement that nothing happened when he was in office. That’s ridiculous.
MT: We bring it up because the perception wasn’t just that he was a good guy, but that it was a responsible administration, that city finances were being handled properly and that people could invest here with the confidence that the city was moving forward. And now there’s a different perception, because of all the bad press you’ve been getting, that the city’s regressed, and it’s not as well managed as it was.
Kilpatrick: I was watching a movie the other night, and there was like a spoof moment in the movie where the owner of one of those little liquor stores — an African-American man walked in with a hat pulled down and the store owner followed him around. Two white elderly ladies walked in at the same time. The store owner watched the African-American man as he walked aisle by aisle, and on the other side of the store two elderly white ladies were robbing the store blind.
I think the perception is that, because we’ve been focused on the wrong thing. It’s wrapped up in the same traditional imagery that the suburban community has of the citizens of the city of Detroit. What is a good person to be in office, and what is not?
If you’re talking about an administration, from 1995 to 2001, that lost over a hundred thousand people in the city in the longest and most expansive period of economic prosperity in the country that the city has ever seen, and you look at the projects that were moved, there weren’t that many.
We went from 17,000 employees to 21,000 employees while we were losing population. Nothing worked. No streets were getting fixed, no snow was getting shoveled, the grass was not getting cut in any parks. There was not an explosion of economic development. Sure we built two stadiums, and I commend [former Wayne County Executive] Ed McNamara and Archer for that.
We lost $100,000,000 on the overrun on the computer system that was supposed to cost us $30,000,000 — it ended up costing us $140,000,000.
We lost, and don’t know where $40,000,000 is in the housing department. We spent $100,000,000 on the riverfront for 25 acres, and had nothing. Closed down 44 businesses in a vibrant district that was coming back.
If I’d have did any of those things, I’d get the front page and there’d be an FBI investigation, because I’m that guy in the store.
MT: Archer is also African-American.
Kilpatrick: Oh, please. It’s nothing the same and everybody in this room knows it. It’s different. And I accept the difference. I think it’s an appropriate difference that needs to be discussed.
MT: What is the difference?
Kilpatrick: We grew up in a corporate, rigid structure here, wearing the traditional blue suit, the traditional corporate tie. That’s how you had to look to be successful.
So when I was graduating with honors — with this big earring — from college, law school, passing the bar the first time and being leader of the [Michigan] House and could articulate, with anybody in this state, the message about the Democratic Party of the state, it wasn’t a big deal. Until you get into a fish bowl and people say, "Wow, we don’t like that image."
In Seattle, they don’t care how you look. If you can program a microchip, you can work. Where ideas are springing up in this country and this world, you should probably be looking more Asian right now than try to look anything else.
I don’t like the broad generalization of "in the suburbs," because I go out there all the time. It’s not far. It’s like the old statement, "Some of my best friends are suburbanites."
It’s the same kind of ignorance that got us into this situation, when Detroiters are the same. "We don’t like people in the suburbs. They really don’t like us." I don’t know what "they" they’re talking about. We’re still stuck so much, because the people in Royal Oak — I had an older African-American man, we were sitting there talking, and he told me, "You shouldn’t go out there to Royal Oak, you need to stay out of there." We were telling him we were going to Mongolian Barbecue, my wife and I. "He said, those people out there don’t like you." What I said was, "What people?" Because the people who he remembers out there don’t live there anymore. And it’s the same in the city of Detroit.
It’s a transition happening now, and I think this election is a huge part of that transition. Do we go back to where everybody is real comfortable, you know, we don’t want to make any waves? Or do we move forward.
It’s just been an issue [of] what the media says about me, communications, and how I look. How I look is real interesting to a lot of folks. It’s been said that I wear zoot suits. I’ve never worn a zoot suit. "He wears yellow." Never.
It’s been an interesting thing because the perception of people’s minds is interesting. Which is why I do love Mayor Young so much. He was a person that immediately, by the power of his presence, garnered national attention. That national attention sometimes is negative, but it can be used for an extraordinary positive, which is what happened during the All-Star Game.
MT: One perception is that your administration has been coasting on the momentum of the Archer administration’s development. Listen to this answer
Kilpatrick: We have. I think we’ve built on the momentum of Mayor Young, Mayor Archer — no mayor comes to this job and does it without any momentum. I commend them and take my hat off to Mayor Archer, the team and what he was able to do.
What I don’t like about that is they’re trying to take credit for a lot of things that our administration did. There were a lot of deals left on the table. When we talk about 3,000 home starts already, none of those things were moving when we came into office.
We talk about 7,400 houses over the next three years. That’s a Team Kilpatrick thing, and we’re proud of that. Campus Martius was a Detroit 300 idea, it happened when Mayor Archer was here. But it was a stalled project. When we came into office, they didn’t have a design, a drawing, an engineer, an architect, a construction person.
We built on the momentum? Hell, yeah, because you have two stadiums sitting there, so that started some huge momentum.
One thing I will never do is knock what any mayor did. I’m proud of whatever Mayor Archer accomplished, Mayor Young, Gribbs and Cavanagh.
I don’t ever want to be perceived as this kid talking about, hey, we did all this by ourselves. No. There were generations of people who came and contributed, but you cannot negate the fact that we have changed economic development in this city, accelerated it in a way that hasn’t been done in 50 years.
MT: We need to move on to crime.
Kilpatrick: I come to crime probably different from any other candidate. My key to crime is job-creation. Mayors have a tremendous problem with crime because there’s some international issues that we can’t fix. I cannot stop drugs from coming into this community. I can’t do it.
The fact is, 800 tons of cocaine come in here. We don’t have any cocaine plants around here, but it’s coming. Heroin is coming from Afghanistan — that’s the real insurgents.
MT: Given that, what’s your position on legalizing drugs, aside from medical marijuana, which is a separate issue.
Kilpatrick: I cannot be for the legalization of drugs. I can’t be for it.
MT: So accept it as a necessary evil?
Kilpatrick: No. That’s a whole longer conversation.
Let me hit this crime thing. On the crime issue, I think that we’ve done a pretty good job of reacting to crime. The police department is better now than it was a few years ago, as you all know. [There were] horrific conditions, horrific facilities, horrible radios. We had outdated port[able] radios for our men and women in blue. We had a 32-year-old 911 system, a 25-year-old … dispatch system, no technology in the cars. It’s been a complete process to get this thing turned around.
That’s an issue in this city. Everything is old, and in the biggest prosperity years, we didn’t build one precinct, we didn’t buy any new equipment for police officers. We bought no cars, built no precincts. That’s what hurts me the most — that we didn’t invest in our men and women when we had the money, more money than we ever had before in the history of this town.
Crime? We’re doing a good job. Our police officers are out there. We have to radically change. The reason I’m being slow with this is we’re about to change the department in a way that it’s never been changed before.
City Council just passed a budget. By law we have to deal with that budget. So the department is going to look a lot different in about 2 1/2 weeks than it looks now. That is major.
MT: That in itself is a reaction to the budget deficit in this city.
MT: You were going to do that anyway?
Kilpatrick: Yes. But it wasn’t going to have to be done in this budget year. I think that it’s dangerous to have to do something that radical in this amount of time. We’ve already been closing down precincts, merging, building new precincts, moving technology around different manpower. But now to have to do it in two months — which Council says we have to do.
MT: Haven’t you had nearly four years to do that?
Kilpatrick: Four years for a department that’s been messed up for 60. It’s impossible to do. Because we also have to change work rules, you have to change union requirements, seniority requirements. You have to change pensions, you have to change a lot of different things, not just, you know, "You’re under arrest."
MT: If you’re approaching it with job-creation, presumably to get people off the street away from illegal means of making a living, what do you do in the meantime? What do you say to people who have drug houses next door, are afraid to go out at night, and hear gunshots every other night of the week in their neighborhood, if not every night? Do you say wait, until all that happens?
Kilpatrick: No, you say traditional things that you’ve been saying since I was a kid. Crime is going down. Crime across the city right now is about 20 percent less this year than it was last year. Our homicides are about 12 percent less this year than they were last year.
MT: Is that per capita?
Kilpatrick: It’s just pure numbers.
MT: We have a lot less people than we’ve had in the last few years.
Kilpatrick: The SEMCOG statistics said we had 12,000 less people. That’s not 12 percent less. We’ve got less people, but even from 2000, if there’s 25,000 less people in the city of Detroit, which they say, then the amount of crime and the drop in crime is much more significant than the population loss.
Fifteen hundred nurses come in from Canada every day. Why don’t we have a nursing program that’s the last year of senior high school? A lot of this stuff has to conform with what we’re doing — if you heard that from another candidate, they stole it from me. It probably was Hansen [Clarke]; he’s been stealing that lately. He’s a nice guy, though.
An idle mind is the devil’s workshop. The reason we’ve continued to have this cycle of crime is because of the loss of hope of African-American men, especially in the city of Detroit. That is the same image problem. I mean, they’ve never seen anybody successful who looks like them and can identify with them, and everybody who does gets beat down.
So how do you be smart, and be able to engage this so-called American Dream? We’ve got to show people, we’ve got to be able to connect people from school to a job, or school to an entrepreneurial opportunity. We haven’t done that in Detroit since the 1940s. Either you went to school or you went to the plant. So when the plant went away, we had nothing to fill that safety net.
Sure, we’ve got to get the police out there, sure we’ve got to bust drug houses. But in the next four years, I think we have to expand our minds to understand that there’s not going to be anything with the cycle of every year saying, "Did we do better this year than we did last year?" If we don’t get an overwhelming, overriding plan on how we curb some of the violence, some of the crime activities, particularly the juvenile delinquency, we’re just going to be chasing our tails.
MT: We’re running out of time and we have to get to the final topic — character. Why does your administration have the reputation of being inept, corrupt, venal, unfeeling, and all the other things that you’ve read and heard.
Kilpatrick: I don’t know that we have that reputation.
MT: You do.
Kilpatrick: I don’t believe that’s our reputation. I think there’s been a real strategic focus, a mission, to make that our reputation. I don’t think that has been accident; I think it’s been real, real strategic.
MT: You don’t think anything that you’ve done personally, or that people who work for you have done, has contributed to that?
Kilpatrick: I think the first day I was here I talked about, hey, I’m the guy in the big chair, I bear a lot of responsibility for that. We definitely did some things that we could have did differently.
I don’t know if we’ve grossly made mistakes more than any other mayor in this country. I don’t. We were working from a position of a negative from the day we walked into this office.
MT: You had an enormous amount of good will when you were elected.
MT: It was a close election, and you had an enormous amount of good will, and that good will was based primarily in, "Maybe at last we’ve got a new day."
Kilpatrick: No, because there were no stories. The first thing that happened in 2002-2003 was that, "He had a party at a place where his wife and children live, at his home, with strippers at the distinguished place where mayors live." And all of these different things kept coming out, and people bought it immediately, and people wrote about it. And then you had a disgruntled cop say, yeah, that’s what he was investigating.
After 154 people were dragged into an investigation, after the attorney general licked his chops and came down here and said, "We got him," investigated everybody upways, sideways, down; after the papers knocked on everybody’s door in the neighborhood, and all they heard was this is bull, it didn’t happen. So we were working from there, (and) anything from that lie was almost believable.
You already had a young, aggressive guy. Once that got into cheating on his wife, womanizer, not a good dad, it all fits with the image. Coming from that point was a tough fight to come, because anytime anybody whispered anything then, it was getting in the paper. There wasn’t a whole lot of checking of any facts.
One of the people that you all ought to do a story on is (city contractor and Kilpatrick campaign contributor) Bobby Ferguson. Same way.
MT: Was that story in the Free Press about choosing him over a lower, substantially lower bidder …
Kilpatrick: I don’t know the specifics of that bid. But what I know is that here’s a guy that’s the hardest-working person I’ve ever met in my entire life. And anytime anybody from the press has ever asked him, he said, "Come on over to my shop," which I’m sure he did with the Metro Times, "come over to my shop, look at my office, look at my machines. Here’s a guy who works hard as hell every day, who has a company — his father died and he took over in 1996. He did Comerica Park, he did Ford Field, he does more demolition, he’s the largest black guy around here. He hires 100 or so black people from the city of Detroit. He has his own equipment, own machines, own everything, and now to eat — because he has five children living in Rosedale Park, living in the city that he was in — this is how he makes his living. But it’s, "He’s horrible, he’s the mayor’s friend." He got much more work under Archer than he’s doing under me.
MT: But let’s get back to the bid. Unless the story was entirely wrong, he was not the lowest bidder by a long shot.
Kilpatrick: It wasn’t even his bid, he didn’t even have the contract. He’s like the third sub on the contract. The contractor was somebody else. I don’t know the specifics of the bid because I don’t care, I don’t get involved with that. What I do get involved in is making the city run.
It’s also some area of expertise that has to be in the contract, so it’s the lowest responsible and responsive bidder. That’s something that’s all been left out in a lot of these articles. And I’m sure you got people over there that will sit down with you and show you those things, but that’s not what people are after. Nobody’s after the truth.
MT: We don’t remember the last time anybody willingly sat down and showed us anything. We’ve had to go to court.
Kilpatrick: He said, "Metro Times called, I want them to come over." He did the same thing to the Free Press. They ain’t go over there. He said "Come over and see me. You can meet my people, meet my guys, see what we’re doing, see what kind of contracts we got."
MT: Maybe they’re afraid they’ll get pistol-whipped. [Ferguson has been charged with pistol-whipping one of his employees.]
Kilpatrick: That’s the image, right?
MT: It’s more than just the image, isn’t it?
Kilpatrick: I don’t know nothing about that. That’s some bullshit to even bring something like that up.
Kilpatrick: I just think it is.
I think more specifically to your questions, sure, there were some things done, but all that’s out there about me is wrong. I am who I am. I’ll be who I am, and I’m going to keep moving forward.
I think we’ve had three major hiccups in government. Out of all of the stuff that we’ve done, all the management improvements, all of the economic development success, all the hosting of these major events, all of these different people coming to town and seeing the difference, and also all of the residential experiences of things changing, from trash collection, grass-cutting and all that, we talk about three issues with Kwame Kilpatrick. We talk about the Navigator, we talk about the credit card, and we talk about the party. So those three issues now have become the issues, none of which have anything to do being mayor of the city of Detroit.
As far as what we’d do different in the next term, it will be a whole different situation. We won’t be dealing with a $100,000,000 deficit walking in to the next term. We will not be dealing with the same type of structural problems that we had to deal with first. We won’t be dealing with the notion that you can’t develop in the city of Detroit, that it’s not a vibrant place to open a business. People want to invest here now. We have things coming around the corner. It’s a whole different mood and feeling. So we can adjust our work, the administration, accordingly.
There were nine articles written about me, about [hiring] family and friends. We’re still trying to figure out who all these damn people are.
There are two friends that I think are some of the most qualified people in the world: [Chief Administrative Office] Derrick Miller, who’s worked on every level of government — city, state and federal, did foreign policy in Congress and all that. But all of a sudden, since he’s my friend, he’s not good enough. Christine Beatty was my chief of staff. She’s written policy and negotiated 48 contracts that were expired coming in, and put together the health authority, and put together a plan to save Receiving Hospital …
MT: And we "know who the fuck she is" too.
Kilpatrick: She never said that. I said that the first day, but you know, it’s [whispering], "Good, you’ve got to be able to get that in there." It’s not true. Absolutely not true.
MT: Did she call the chief of police to help her out that day?
Kilpatrick: Absolutely not. The sergeant said that. See, that’s what everybody missed. The sergeant on the scene says she didn’t call the chief of police, and he never heard her use any profanity on the scene.
This is how I feel: It’s ugly changing things. It’s ugly. The civil rights movement was ugly, because nobody wanted black people to sit at the table like this and look you in the eye. So it was ugly. It’s poetic now. We all love Dr. King. He’s dead. If he was here agitating and raising hell like he was, or raising heaven, depending on how you look at it, it’d be ugly again. And it’s the same thing in Detroit. We’ll never have to be where we were, because we’ve been here.
MT: Why did you say the cops set Beatty up in that case?
Kilpatrick: I didn’t say anything. I just told you what I said. It’s not true and never happened.
MT: You talk about perception. Our perception is that you can’t be believed when something wrong is found out. Listen to this answer
Kilpatrick: You believed me in the blackout. You believed me when there was a real emergency situation where we had to mobilize a whole lot of people around here. We performed the best in this country, and you believed me. You believed me with the All-Star Game, you believed me with the Super Bowl, you believed me when we go out here and get all these hundred projects coordinated.
It’s a real selective choice of believing around here.
Never before since I’ve been in office, which I said that day at that long-ass press conference, have I ordered a vehicle. I don’t lease vehicles, I don’t order vehicles, never have, never will. Now I’m going to know what the police is ordering, and that’s something new. You know, Mayor Archer’s wife had an SUV. My wife is provided an SUV, and the family, in the executive detail. When the lease ran out, they reordered a lease. I told them I didn’t need a lease because we were donated a car by General Motors. Two seconds [of news coverage] on that, in December.
On Jan. 15, somebody asked me do you have a Navigator? No. I went to D.C. This erupted in that week that I was at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The mistake I made is that I didn’t take that seriously. Then Dave [Manney] was calling me — he was our communications guy — "You gotta get on this thing. This is getting big." Y’all gotta be kidding. It’s a damn car that we don’t have. Tell the chief to go out there and say something that she has it. Never took it seriously.
When I came back, I had to have this big meeting about a $24,000 car. It’s $4,000,000 a day to run this city. But at that point, it was much more important to stop and pause and take care of this $24,000 car and this communications issue.
MT: Do you have a feel at all for the symbolism of that and why it blew up?
Kilpatrick: Yes, I do.
MT: Do you deserve any of the bad press you’ve gotten?
Kilpatrick: Aw, yeah. I’m the mayor. So yeah, we’re going to drop the ball on some things. Yes, we’re gonna have a good day. Yes, we’re gonna have a bad day. I just want it to be fair. And maybe that’s too much to ask. My mother says there’s no such thing as a fair fight, it’s just a fight.
I know I’m going to take some shots. I know we’re going to have bad press. Some situations we’ve handled well, and some situations we’ve handled terribly. There are things that are completely my fault, and there’s some things that have been attributed to me that are not. But since I’m the mayor, it is.
So, yeah, I definitely believe we’ve had some fair shots.
MT: On the credit card. That stuff came out, and then you paid it back …
Kilpatrick: No, that’s not how it happened. This is what I love, getting to talk with other folks.
When the original FOIA (Freedom of Information Act request) came in about the credit card … we immediately aligned ourselves with Joe Harris, the auditor general, and said, "Please do a complete audit." He was performing that audit. We sent out letters that said we cannot give out this information until the audit is complete. When the audit came back, he gave me a series of things that he thought I needed to pay. But these things didn’t line up.
On that list were two issues, three. Two of them were from the same deal. When we go out to Vegas, per the casino agreement that I didn’t negotiate, Vegas pays for our rooms. But they send a consolidated bill. And when I went out there, I took my whole family. They stayed in my room, though.
We also got a room for the babysitter who came with us. So when it came back from the audit that the babysitter’s room and the spa room needed to be paid for, they’d already been paid for by the casino. It wasn’t even on our credit card. I wrote a check for those things.
We got the audit, wrote the necessary checks, which was three, for the spa and the babysitter’s room, and for a Dream nightclub [in Washington, D.C.]. The reason I wrote that is because a cop said I was out there hanging out at the club. I said OK, let me just pay this back because we need to pay that back, even though it was a part of what we were doing out there. Fine.
One of the major charges on there was a $9,000 charge to the New Orleans — something. I can’t remember — Sporting something New Orleans. You got it, I don’t.
And they said we all came up there, which we didn’t. Since that time they have narrowed that down to $3,000. I believe when we finish going back and forth with them there won’t be a charge at all. What they said is we bought Super Bowl tickets from there, which never happened. I wish I did, but never happened.
So I wrote a check for the … items we were challenging and I said that I will get my money back from the city. But it won’t look good to get money back from the city. So I wrote a check, a $9,300 check, to supplement the stuff that we were challenging. And we’re not stopping challenging that.
When you say why you don’t come with the information, we do that because every time we sit down in a way like that [a reference to a meeting with the Free Press], it seems like we get our throats cut.
What happens is my communications team then withdraws, which is something that we’re working to change.
MT: Are you saying you’ve been set up, and the press is complicit in it?
Kilpatrick: You always go to that finality type statement. No, I think there’s been some shots taken that were unfair, and it’s placed me in a position that I have to fight from, that’s totally opposite of who I am. Send comments to [email protected]