Monday, November 14, 2005

Turning eyes toward Detroit

If you're interested in some national perspective on Kwame Kilpatrick winning last Tuesday's Detroit mayoral election, Paul Clemens wrote an Op-Ed piece on the subject in Sunday's New York Times. (And I got to read it without paying for TimesSelect!)

This is something that the NY Times' Op-Ed page does well: Find someone who knows something on a particular subject, and let him or her write a column about it. Clemens wrote a book titled Made in Detroit: A South of 8 Mile Memoir, an account of how much Detroit (and he) changed while he grew up in the city during the 70's and 80's. (Here's a review of the book from the Detroit Free Press' Marta Salij.)

For those who live in this area, Clemens's column provides some possible answers to those who are wondering "How the #@$% did that happen?" For those living elsewhere, it's a glimpse at the people of Detroit, the perception they deal with, and the politics of their city.

After losing in the August primary, Kilpatrick knew he had to change his image. Rosa Parks's funeral gave him a moment in the spotlight, through which he displayed his charisma and political potential. Detroit historically re-elects incumbent mayors. A majority of people deeply distrust the media that criticized Kilpatrick, and his campaign capitalized on that opinion.

The question is, is Kilpatrick all style, or does he have some substance? Can someone who finds himself in the unenviable position of having to redefine Detroit, to dissuade people from continuing to leave the city for the suburbs, do something with the second chance he's been given?

▪ ▪ And in other Detroit news, the NBA's Sacramento Kings were fined $30,000 by the league for a rather tasteless video montage shown before last week's game against the Detroit Pistons. During the pre-game introductions, the Arco Arena scoreboard displayed images of abandoned buildings, cars on fire, boarded-up houses, and piles of rubble. The Kings' owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, took out full-page ads in both Detroit newspapers last week for an apology. Don't mess with Detroit, fellas.

As Susannah said at Pub of Knowledge, it's probably not worth getting worked up about. It's such an old, tired joke. They're probably just bitter about Chris Webber and taking it out on his hometown.