Outing the mayor

Feb 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

Does City Council President Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr. want to be Detroit's mayor?"Just let it all come out," Cockrel said last week regarding legal wrangling in the text-messaging scandal surrounding Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Wayne Circuit Court Judge Robert Columbo Jr. has ordered the release of all documents related to last year's settlement of a whistleblower suit won by three former police officers against the city. Cockrel was referring to council's support for Columbo's ruling, which the city has in part appealed to keep some documents confidential.

Speculation is that if it all comes out it may result in Kilpatrick being forced from office. If the mayor's ouster were indeed the result, Cockrel would become mayor until the next election. In fact, that scenario would have three members of council move up in the pecking order. In addition to Cockrel, council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers would become president and Councilmember JoAnn Watson would become president pro tem.

I believe that Cockrel does want to be mayor, although only in the sense that most people want to move up in their profession. I don't think he has overtly nefarious or underhanded intentions in the current affair. He's the son of a man who many hoped would become mayor. That notion ended with the tragic, early death of Councilmember Kenneth V. Cockrel Sr. in 1989. But a son can certainly chase the same dream as his father.

Cockrel has exhibited the same steady, evenhandedness in dealing with this scandal as he's had in overseeing council business. He gathers as much information as he can on an issue and proceeds methodically until it's settled. He doesn't sport a big diamond earring and isn't inclined to getting himself photographed atop buildings looking like a superhero. But I'll take substance over image any day.

It doesn't make any difference to my assessment, but I feel the need to mention that Cockrel wrote a column every other week for Metro Times in the early 1990s. One of his columns from 1993 -- the year of Detroit's first mayoral election in 20 years without Coleman Young as a candidate -- discusses his father's aspiration to run for mayor and his own thoughts about the challenges facing the winner. He ends with a wise warning: "... the honeymoon between the new mayor and Detroit's citizenry is likely to end before both parties have even left the wedding chapel."

Well, at least he knows what he would be getting into.

In fact, at least for the interim, that's Cockrel's best recommendation. If Kilpatrick were to leave office before his term is finished we need someone who already knows the city's business. Things will be chaotic, and the steady hand of someone we know and trust would make a big difference for the better. We don't need Superman flying high over the city; we need someone who knows what he's doing to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

Speaking of the larger-than-life
Kilpatrick, in addition to electing a double-sized mayor, Detroiters got a lot of doubles. We got two mayors: one of them a pretty smart guy who could make deals helpful to the city; the other a fool who should have never let the whistleblower suit go to trial when he knew the damning text messages existed and that his relationship with Chief of Staff Christine Beatty would come into question. We got double-charged to pay for both his official and personal expenses. We got double deals in the whistleblower suit settlement. We got double-crossed by an insincere player. We apparently got double the usual amount of first ladies, one for the office and one for the mansion.

Where he should have doubled up was to get a separate text messaging system for personal communications with Beatty -- at his own expense. The cost would have been pocket change for the mayor and there would have been no permanent, public record of those texts. But that's the kind of entitlement the powerful feel. They want the public to pay for every little thing they do.

Last Friday, Kilpatrick took his case directly to the people of Detroit by appearing live on two radio programs. He spent an hour with host Frankie Darcell on WMXD-FM 92.3, where right off the bat he brought up the celestial struggle between good and evil. "A lot of people are saying this is the devil doing this to me. I want to be clear that this is not the devil doing this to me," he said. "God allowed this to happen in my life. ..." That may be, but if that's his attitude, Kilpatrick should take a look at the book of Job to get an idea of what else may be allowed to happen in his life.

He continued in this vein, later stating, "I believe I'm on an assignment from God in this position." Apparently the mayor has forgotten that we had an election and Detroit voters backed him for this assignment by 54 percent -- hardly a heavenly mandate. Just remember Mr. Mayor, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.

I had a hard time believing his claim that he "fasted and prayed" before running for re-election in 2005. This guy's ego is so big I doubt he had any doubts. But one thing he said is lock-down truth: "You can trust me also to be imperfect."

Kilpatrick also made a brief appearance on WDMK-FM 102.7 where fawning host Reggie Reg suggested writing a Kilpatrick biography for a film treatment. The mayor brushed off the idea but it set me to thinking: What actor could play Kilpatrick? The hip-hop mayor deserves a hip-hop actor to play him. Maybe Ice Cube could do it. But for real dramatic flair I'd go for Mos Def. Hey, they can perform miracles with makeup and padded suits.

Hands down I'd go for Queen Latifah in a dual role as both Carlita Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty. For director I'd chose either Quentin Tarantino or Spike Lee. Tarantino because he could create a monster opening scene party at the Manoogian Mansion that lives up to the rumors with a stripper giving the big man a lap dance just as the mayor's wife bursts in and puts an insane beating on her. However, if legal proceedings dragged on and I wanted to get the film out, I'd go with Lee for his gift of giving you an emotionally gripping tale with an ambiguous ending.

By the way, my personal opinion is that if the mayor thinks the side confidentiality agreement in the suit is private, he can pay his personal $8.4 million in the settlement rather than us taxpayers.

Getting back on a serious tip,
what about Sen. Barack Obama sweeping the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Kansas, Washington state, Maine and the Virgin Islands over the weekend? That gives him wins in 19 state primaries or caucuses. And if polls for Tuesday night's Potomac Primary held true, that total is now 22. Not enough to win the Democratic nomination, but it sets a new standard for black candidates. Although Jesse Jackson's number from 1988 is overshadowed by the memory of his "Hymietown" flameout, he actually took a respectable 13 contests, including 55 percent of the vote in Michigan. Before the 2008 contest is over, Obama will have set a standard that erases the need for a standard of how far an African-American can go. I know it's not about race, but Obama's really made it a race.

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]