What'd Kwame say?

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I'm not copping a mea culpa here, but I did vote for Kwame Kilpatrick in 2001. I had my doubts about his age and maturity, but I figured that his experience in the state Legislature and grooming in a political family would hold him in good stead. Gil Hill was too obviously tight with the casino crowd for my comfort. He lunched regularly at the same table near the front door of Fishbone's restaurant, owned by Ted Gatzaros, who was one of the original shareholders in the Greektown Casino.

In the primary season that year, I thought Charles Beckham was the best candidate (after his brother William died), but his felony conviction and jail time from the Coleman Young years made his candidacy a pipe dream. I also thought the unspectacular policy wonk Joe Harris had some prudent ideas. Both of those choices — and former U.S. undersecretary of labor Bill Brooks, who got the MT endorsement in that primary — were eliminated by the final election, so I was left with a choice between hip-hop Kwame and greased eel Gil.

By the time of the next mayoral election in 2005, I had seen enough of Kwame's arrogant crap and voted for Freman Hendrix. Hendrix wasn't all that dynamic, but Kilpatrick had already started the snowball rolling that would eventually take down his administration. The bottom line is there hasn't been much to choose from in the last couple of elections.

I hope City Council puts off another election until next fall's scheduled contest (although they may have decided otherwise by the time you read this). Aside from the $3 million-plus cost, I don't think I can stand a November presidential election, then a February mayoral primary, a May mayoral election, an August primary, then another November election — that's brutal. Absent special elections, City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr. will be mayor until the next election, and if that gives him the unfair advantage of incumbency, so be it. Somebody's got to be the incumbent, and I think a year at the top will give us a pretty good idea about whether to give him four more years. In addition, it will give time for the ground skirmishes between the Kilpatrick loyalists (and whoever tries to pull them together) and Cockrel boosters to settle down. If Dave Bing really is the man, rather than the flavor of the month, he can bring it in August just as well as in February.

All that time should allow all of us to clear our heads and make some kind of informed decision.

In the meantime we'll have to scrape along with an eight-member City Council that will no doubt grace us with deadlocked 4-4 votes of indecision until an election restores a full nine-member body. And with feds waiting in the wings over the Synagro affair, we don't know how many council members we'll still have in place when that's all over. I'm a fan of the woman who spoke at Saturday's healing gathering with the City Council. She said that everyone who has done something should line up at Prosecutor Kym Worthy's office on Monday morning so we can just get all of this stuff out of the way and move on. ... Well, it was a nice idea.

Message on a T: While greeting old friends and cooling my heels at the Dally in the Alley on Saturday (wow, has that thing blown up since its infancy in the early 1980s!) I saw a lot of cool T-shirts in the crowd. But the one that got the biggest laugh out of me sported a picture of Kilpatrick with the caption "Party at my place."

We all know that party is an urban myth because state Attorney General Michael Cox told us so. And while we know Kilpatrick probably never uttered those words loudly enough for anyone in the media to hear, it does make me wonder what did Kwame ever say that was memorable? Not much. He took good pictures but most of his rhetoric was boilerplate treacle, such as his promise to Detroiters, "I would never quit on you." Yeah, yeah, Christine Beatty has heard all that before.

During his goodbye speech last week, Kwame declared that "sometimes standing strong means stepping down." That line isn't bad, but it's not the sort of thing you'd put on a T-shirt. The same goes for all his curious statements about having been made mayor of Detroit by God. And his, "Ya'll done set me up for a comeback" line won't reverberate unless he actually does make a comeback. I shiver at the thought.

My favorite line from the hubris that piled up quickly after Kilpatrick took office is attributed to former chief of staff Christine Beatty, who asked a police officer who pulled her over for speeding: "Do you know who the fuck I am?" We ought to get Carlita Kilpatrick's answer to that question, but it probably wouldn't fit on a T-shirt.

Another T-shirt still floating around asks: WWCD? (What would Coleman do?) Kwame Kilpatrick seemed to aspire to be a latter-day Coleman Young, yet his rhetoric never quite achieved the quotable flair of the late and long-tenured mayor. Young's salty verbiage even inspired a small book of his quotations. To me the moment asks not what Coleman would do, but what would he say? One appropriate Young line would be "You can't look forward and backward at the same time."

Even that doesn't rise to the level of the "Aloha, motherfuckers" that Young tossed out to reporters on closed circuit television from Hawaii. The biggest regret I have from my time as Metro Times editor is not using the headline "Aloha, Motherfuckers" on the paper's cover when Young died. The line was pretty raw, but it would have been appropriate for our rough and raunchy mayor who sometimes seemed to just not give a damn when it came to social niceties.

But now, as I attempt to look forward, I take a peek back at the past. The T-shirt I want to see now is one with a picture of Kilpatrick with the caption "Aloha, Motherfucker." I guess a hip-hop dude could appreciate that.

And finally: In his farewell speech, Kilpatrick ruefully suggested, "I wish with all my heart that we could turn back the hands of time and tell that young man: 'Make better choices.' But I can't." That sounds nice and all, but I'm pretty sure that back then someone was telling him to make better choices. He didn't heed the advice then, and based on events of the past year, he's still not listening. I mean, like, who told him to wear gators with that tether around his ankle. Talk about a fashion faux pas.

Seriously speaking though, are these the decisions of an older and wiser Kilpatrick: violating your probation, pushing around a police officer and creating a secret side document in the settlement of a lawsuit that should never have gone to trial? Sounds like the same arrogant and immature punk to me. For anyone who thinks Kilpatrick should still be mayor, I turn to the late Bob Marley for advice, "Now you got what you want, do you want more?"

Think about that while weighing the choices in the next mayoral contest.

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

About The Author

Larry Gabriel

Larry Gabriel covers cannabis for Metro Times. He also writes the Detroit Watch in the monthly Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. Larry's chapter "Rebirth of Tribe" in the book Heaven Was Detroit, from jazz to hip-hop and beyond chronicles the involvement of Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Harold McKinney,...
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