Being from Detroit and all, I have read numerous newspaper articles about the latest scandal involving Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. *sigh* Generally, I don’t care too much about this kind of scandal, but I’m truly disappointed in this utter lack of leadership and common sense. If you’re not familiar with the story, basically, the married mayor had an affair a few years ago with his then-married chief of staff, Christine Beatty. Last year, a couple police officers , won a $6.5 million civil suit against the mayor and the City, alleging that they were unjustly fired because they were investigating possibly criminal incidents arising from the mayor’s playboy lifestyle. There were also allegations of the mayor’s security detail improperly collecting overtime pay and engaging in inappropriate behavior. During the trial, the mayor and his chief of staff repeatedly denied having an affair. Whatever the jury thought about him having an affair, they did believe the officers were unjustly fired and hence the multi-million dollar verdict that Detroit taxpayers will be paying out. A later settlement plus legal fees, brings the grand total to $9 million for Detroit taxpayers.
And now the salacious part…
So, the Detroit Free Press did some digging and they came across 14,000 very incriminating text messages between the mayor and this then chief-of-staff from a few years ago. Using City-issued phones, Kilpatrick and Beatty planned out of town trists, proclaimed their love for eachother and shared a naughty thought or two. The mayor basically admitted the affair once the text messages were released by issuing a response stating that he and his wife had already worked through those “intensely personal” issues years ago. Beatty and her husband divorced last year.
Kilpatrick, who is now serving his second term, was just 31 years old when he was elected mayor of Detroit. As a tall, broad shouldered, earring-wearing young man who never saw a pinstriped suit he didn’t like, he was almost instantly dubbed the “Hip Hop Mayor.” I loved what he represented as a breathe of fresh air for a city that had been smothered in old school politics for far too long. Detroit has a very long way to go, but there have been some notable improvements under his watch, mostly just downtown though.
All that said, I am truly disappointed in him. He knows the kind of yoke he carries as a young black man in the United States and to be a mayor of a major city only adds to the level of responsibility he surely must have felt. I refuse to blame youth for his indiscretions. Far too many people of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds have committed the sin of adultery. And really, I could almost care less about who he chooses to share his bed with, but when that behavior impacts his ability to effectively lead the City, then I take issue. On the stand during the civil trial, he passionately denied any affair with Beatty and took the time to make a little mini-speech about how the allegations were in fact offensive to all working women and how just because a woman works with a man, it does not make her a whore. Hmph.
There are a lot of dynamic people in the “hip hop generation” and I just hope that the old guard doesn’t come straggling back in for the next mayoral race just because people think Kilpatrick was “too young” to be mayor. I have zero interest in running for any office, but I think it is crucial for people of my generation (the “all of my friends are getting married now” set) to get out there and be responsible and run for office and show the old heads that tradition does not always equal right. Change can be good.