Detroit Mayor Heads To Trial

Will the beleaguered city support him?

Even as his trial is scheduled to begin this month, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick refuses to resign and vows to fight several charges brought against him by Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Worthy announced the 12-count criminal indictment in March stating that Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, his former chief of staff, lied under oath during a whistle-blower trial last summer when the two denied having a romantic relationship. Kilpatrick faces eight felony charges and Beatty, seven, including perjury, obstruction of justice, and misconduct in office.

The charges could signal the end of Kilpatrick’s six-year term as mayor of one of America’s largest cities. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

During a press conference in March, Detroit’s one-time rising star and youngest elected leader said, “I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts surrounding this matter have been brought forth.”

In the meantime, Kilpatrick said he will remain focused on moving the city of Detroit forward with key initiatives, such as the modernization of the city’s police force, the expansion of its workforce development department’s efforts to prepare citizens for jobs, and the $300 million economic stimulus package he presented to three members of the City Council.

Many other members of the community are trying to look forward as well. “The scandal has become a distraction but until the political and legal processes move forward, the city and region are in a holding pattern. The business community making any sweeping public statements won’t change the reality that the judicial system has to resolve the issue. That is why the Chamber remains focused on the work at hand, which is pushing for economic development and job creation,” said Richard E. Blouse, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Dave Bing, chairman and CEO of BE 100s company The Bing Group, told the Detroit News that although black business leaders are split on whether the mayor should resign, “Anybody who thinks this is not hurting the city, the region, or the state of Michigan has their head in the sand.”

Stephen Henderson, deputy editor of the Detroit Free Press, agrees that the scandal has had an effect on business and the image of the city. “He was hitting home runs particularly with downtown development. There are more businesses opening downtown than in the last 50 years. However since the scandal erupted, three conventions, including the National Conference of Black Mayors, have canceled their trips to Detroit. Even city officials will tell you in private that there is no business going on in the city because of this,” says Henderson.

However, many Detroit residents are supporting Kilpatrick. A Detroit Free Press-Local 4 Michigan poll shows that half of Detroit residents think he should leave and 40% think he should stay in office for now. Black Detroiters are evenly divided on whether Kilpatrick should resign immediately, with 45% saying yes and 43% saying no.

“I support the mayor and I support his right to stay in office and to fight this vigorously. The leveling

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