The Gravity of One Mans Actions


At one point Detroit was one of the most vibrant and wealthy cities in the entire United States. During the 1950’s Detroit was the fourth largest city, with a population nearing 1.8 million people. Currently today the population of Detroit is less than half of what it was during its peak in the late 50’s.

  Unlike today, wealth was something that was prevalent during the late 1950’s and 60’s in Detroit. Detroit had the highest per capita income in the entire United States during its glory days but, today it is notoriously know as one of most poverty stricken cities in the county.

Detroit during the 1970’s and 80’s saw serious issues with the auto industry due to sky rocketing oil prices and change in consumer demand for smaller vehicles.  As a result of these changes many manufacturing plants closed down and with the closing of these plants tax payer dollars left the city.

It was not until the mid 90’s that Detroit saw glimpses of recovery under Mayor Dennis Archer. During this time Moody’s upgraded Detroit city bonds from Junk to Investment grade status.  The recovery that was experienced during the mid 90’s was curtailed by corruption that followed the election of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in the early 2000’s. The administration was plagued with corruption, extortion, nepotism and countless cases of unwise spending.  These issues were perpetuated by the lack internal accounting controls. Issues such as the mass amounts of pension and health care debt, loss of jobs, and a shrinking tax base have all played a serious role in the demise of Detroit but, it is in our opinion that the actions or inactions taken by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick were the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s self proclaimed nickname the “Hip Hop Mayor” set the precedent for the goals and motivations of his administration. Mayor Kilpatrick’s antics throughout his time as a Mayor of the city conveyed that he was more concerned with self advancement rather than the betterment of the City of Detroit. Barbara McQuade, a Detroit Attorny, expressed our opinion accurately when she said “Kwame Kilpatrick didn’t lead the city. He looted the city. While Kwame Kilpatrick enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, he watched the quality of life erode for the people of Detroit.”  

During Kilpatrick’s tenure as Mayor there were countless acts of corruption.  At one point in Kilpatrick’s career he received a $50,000 bribe to push the approval of a sale of 160 acres of city land. In the grand scheme of things $50,000 is not a large sum of money but, it is an example of his agenda to look out for his own needs rather than the city of Detroit’s. It is possible that this land could have been sold to a higher bidder but, due to the bride received by Kilpatrick and the Influence that he had on city officials the City of Detroit was deprived of less money on the sale of the land.

Kilpatrick’s largest example of corruption was showcased by the 83 million dollars worth of municipal contracts that he steered towards long time friend Bobby Ferguson. In reciprocation of directing the contracts towards Ferguson, Kilpatrick received some of the city money that was given to Ferguson to complete the contracted work. This exemplifies once again Kilpatrick’s tendency to comingle City business with personal enrichment. This example also highlights Detroit’s lack of internal controls.  From the sounds of it Mayor Kilpatrick had way too much power/influence in regards to the issuance of city Contracts.  Controls should have existed that investigated such transactions where closely connected parties conducted business.

One might wonder why questions were not raised in the city council about the close relationship that existed between Mayor Kilpatrick and Ferguson. Questions may not have been raised because under his leadership corruption was the norm. Since 2008, there have been 35 city officials convicted of various forms of corruption.

During this point in Detroit’s history the focus of every city officials attention should have been geared towards understanding the serious financial problems that loomed over the city, like the huge pension debt, shrinking tax base, and the large unemployment rate. Instead of understanding these issues and ultimately attempting to fix them these corrupt individuals lead by Mayor Kilpatrick were robbing the city rather than improving it.  Twelve years ago had someone else with a real plan to improve the city been elected to lead Detroit, maybe the financial issues that brought Detroit to the point of insolvency could have been avoided.  However, it’s possible that regardless of who was in control over the past 12 years, the City of Detroit and its turbulent economic history was beyond saving.


4 comments on “The Gravity of One Mans Actions

  1. […] The Gravity of One Mans Actions ( […]

  2. laxacc421 says:

    We feel that Kwame Kilpatrick may have had a slight impact on the potential bankruptcy of Detroit, but although Kilpatrick’s corrupt actions were harmful towards Detroit, the city was already heading towards failure. His corruption was immaterial to the overall bankruptcy of Detroit compared to other issues such as pension, taxes, and revenue collection. When he ended his office term in 2008, he definitely did not leave Detroit in good shape, but the major issues that brought Detroit to bankruptcy were not tied directly to Kilpatrick. If Kilpatrick would have taken money in the billions, it would have been more likely that he had an impact on the 18 billion dollar deficit in Detroit.

    We would agree that Kilpatrick had a negative impact on potential businesses coming to Detroit. Having a corrupt government is never a good thing if a city wants to bring in new businesses to stimulate the local economy because the businesses may feel like they would not have a chance to succeed if the government is just helping out their friends. It would also be hard for a business to find a reason to move to a city with a corrupt government because they may feel they’re not able to trust the leadership in that city.

    Group 3, Section 1

  3. laxacc421 says:

    From the blog, we agree with you that Kilpatrick’s corruption and bad leadership was one of the
    reasons leading to the collapse of Detroit, but also argue that the failure of Detroit was the
    accumulation of continuing mismanagement and bad decisions made by many mayors of Detroit
    not just Kilpatrick. The mayor before Kilpatrick, Dennis Archer, was adding more than 1,100
    employees during his tenure from 1994 to 2001 despite the shrinking population. This led to the
    increase in legacy cost. In the late 1980s, Detroit had 18,000 retirees, but Archer still did not think
    the red flags were obvious. One reason could be that health care for the elderly was not as
    expensive as it is now. However, with better judgment and vision, Archer could have done
    something to head his decisions in the right direction. In addition, Bing (the mayor after Kilpatrick)
    also increased the debt by borrowing $250 million. In 1960s and 1970s, when the population
    decreased, the workforce should have been reduced as well. That’s why we think the breakdown
    of Detroit was the sum of all the mayors’ bad decisions and Kilpatrick was just one factor in it.

    Group 6, Section 2

  4. laxacc421 says:

    This was a very thought out topic with good examples, but what if you looked at this topic from the outside. Do you believe that it was only Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who influenced other city employees to succumb to the powers of corruption. Or maybe there were underlying employees who actually influenced the Mayor to jump on the bandwagon? Maybe it was prior Mayor’s who actually started the trend? Former Mayor Coleman Young was debatably the most influential mayor of his time. Former Mayor Young was the mayor of Detroit for from 1974-1994, the years of which Detroit was losing corporations but yet still spending extravagantly. Young’s “rule” of the greatest city in the U.S., slowly but surely, crippled Detroit into becoming where it is today.
    Another issue that comes to mind is the comment about selling the land at such a reduced price. On one side of the coin one can say that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was nearly giving that land away to corporations as a corrupted act of politics, or it can be viewed that he was trying to persuade corporations to build new warehouses or factories to better stimulate jobs within the Detroit area. Another thing with the sale of land is that it must be approved by more than just the mayor; it must also pass through a few other departments within the city. One department that Detroit has is a city budget council that consists of nine members. Should these people be accountable for how badly things were planned out within the fiscal period? How come the city budget council never risen concern with anyone about such a large accumulation of debt? This council should also be looked at for how poorly of a job they did with such a great city. Yes, I do agree that Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indeed someone who helped in the destruction of such a great city, but one man to bring down the entire city is a stretch.

    Section 1, Group 5

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