DETROIT -- Battling the perception that Detroit's
condition is worsening, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on Tuesday
offered a lengthy list of accomplishments intended to build
confidence in his administration in an election year.
Kilpatrick admitted that "at times I have been an
imperfect servant," but asked residents to focus on the
progress made by his administration and not solely on him.
"It is important to this city's future that you have
confidence in your mayor in these difficult times," the
mayor said in his fourth State of the City address. "I am
determined to serve you in a manner that earns confidence."
Without offering details, he also said:
• City employees must begin discussions with the
administration immediately on reducing health care costs to
help get rid of budget deficits likely to approach $400
million this year and next.
• The budget he will present April 12 for the 2005-06
fiscal year "will be one of the toughest budgets ever
presented to council. It will cut spending, it will
eliminate programs and it will reform government in ways we
have never seen before."
Kilpatrick issued a sober reminder of the city's mounting
fiscal problems but tried to focus on the achievements of
his administration -- from the strongest housing
construction revival in 50 years to bringing crime to
40-year lows to ushering in high-profile national
conventions and sporting events.
His most dire warning went to the city's employee unions,
which have rejected 10 percent pay cuts. Kilpatrick said
rising health care costs will "cripple" the city unless
steps are taken immediately to bring them under control. He
likened the city's personnel costs to those of the Big Three
automakers, which recently launched initiatives to cut
employee health care costs.
But squabbles between Kilpatrick and some members of the
City Council were again evident as council members Maryann
Mahaffey, Barbara-Rose Collins, JoAnn Watson and Sharon
McPhail boycotted the address and said they will offer an
alternative plan today.
"He doesn't lack charisma; he lacks credibility," said
McPhail, a mayoral candidate.
Meanwhile, council members Alonzo Bates, Ken Cockrel Jr.,
Sheila Cockrel and Albert Tinsley-Talabi were introduced by
Kilpatrick and sat behind him on stage.
Detroiters who attended the address in the Max M. Fisher
Music Center were buoyed by the mayor's optimism, talk of
cutting property taxes and honesty in discussing his
"I was impressed," said 61-tear-old Stella Calloway. "He
is talking about good ideas and that Detroiters should feel
good about themselves."
Dentist James Murray, 39, who six months ago bought a
home in the Sherwood Forest district, said Kilpatrick's push
to lower property taxes was positive, even if it means there
could be tough financial decisions elsewhere in Detroit's
"Some people will have to get bit, but it's the best
thing for the entire city," lifelong Detroiter Murray said.
"What I heard was very hopeful."
Kilpatrick received the biggest rounds of applause when
he endorsed reducing the tax burden and talked about the
city's progress. But Kurt Metzger, research director of the
Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University, said the
mayor didn't go into detail about spending cuts.
The mayor conceded personal mistakes and that there are
widespread doubts about the city's direction.
"If our march to a new future here in the city of Detroit
seems less certain tonight, then I, as mayor of the city of
Detroit, must set a clear course so that we may renew our
city," he said.
Crediting changes in the Police Department led by Chief
Ella Bully-Cummings, Kilpatrick said the major crime rate in
Detroit last year was the lowest since 1963. Homicide,
however, was up 5 percent from 2003. He said the department,
which is under federal oversight, increased the number of
uniformed officers, developed a "Most Violent Persons" list,
and confiscated drugs with a street value of $85 million.
He urged the courts to start imposing a $500 fine for
solicitation of prostitutes, a penalty which the mayor says
hasn't been enforced since the city increased the fine in
October from $50. He pledged to continue his party store
crackdown despite concerns that such raids unfairly target
Arab and Chaldean store owners.
In touting his administration's efforts to rebuild
deteriorated communities, Kilpatrick highlighted key
projects that will begin this year, including a development
plan for 1,200 acres on the city's east side called Fox
Creek and a new public housing project called the Garden
View Estates at the former site of the Herman Gardens public
The mayor didn't shy from criticism that his big visions
centering on four projects -- the Book Cadillac, the
Michigan Central Train Depot, Cobo Hall and the city's
demolition's program -- haven't been achieved.
"I'm proud that we have the vision and the team that
dares to take on the challenge of breathing new life into
these symbols of dilapidation in our city," Kilpatrick said.
Despite the budget deficit, Kilpatrick said the city has
made quality of life improvements. Next month, he said, the
city will break ground on two "family fun centers."
One, adjacent to the Lasky Recreation Center, will
include 27 batting cages, a rock-climbing wall, a nine-hole
flying disc golf course and an 18-hole miniature golf
course. The second, at Eight Mile near Ray, will include a
Although the Belle Isle Aquarium is closing April 3, he
noted that plans are going forward to open a nature zoo in
the park this fall.
Ten other city parks had major renovations the past year
and 20 are slated for improvements this year. Kilpatrick
also promised that the giant slide on Belle Isle will resume
operation this year.
He noted that city residents faced their lowest water and
sewer rate increases in the past 12 years this year, and
that department director Victor Mercado is modernizing the
system to keep costs low.
Kilpatrick credited Chief Financial Officer Sean Werdlow
for helping guide the city through tough financial times.
Since 2001, non-public safety overtime has dropped 43
percent and 3,000 city jobs have been cut.
He said he also hopes for action on earlier proposals to
cut the city's high property tax bills for homeowners. He is
pushing for action in the state Legislature on the proposed
Neighborhood Enterprise Zone law, which would reduce the tax
sting of buying a new house in Detroit by easing some of the
stringent requirements of Proposal A.
You can reach Judy Lin at (313) 222-2072 or