Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Mayor Ken Cockrel is Not President Obama by Akindele Akinyemi
While Detroiters are trying to figure out who to vote for on May 5, 2009 I wanted to point out something of significance. Some people who are supporting Mayor Ken Cockrel for re-election are going around saying that the Cockrel campaign and personality is like President Obama's campaign.

Sorry people but Mayor Cockrel is NOT President Obama. Not even close. To compare the two men is ridiculous.

Detroit is in bad shape. Mayoral candidate Dave Bing is
planning on making Charlie Beckham, his campaign manager, a Deputy Mayor while looking at placing Sharon McPhail somewhere on the team. So he lost me right there. McPhail served as corporation counsel under former Mayor Kilpatrick. She's still got Kwame smell all over her from the trial and as if she doesn't bring enough of her own questionable behavior into the mix. Rev. Horace Sheffield is already publicly in Bing's corner. He also has the unofficial support of Monica Conyers, Martha Reeves, and Barbara Rose-Collins.

If Bing decides to ally himself with this old regime mentality, his credibility as a leader to affect change is seriously compromised.

But what's worse is Ken Cockrel Jr.

As the sitting mayor, due to the abdication of the mayoral seat by Kilpatrick, Ken Cockrel gains an advantage that he has previously not enjoyed- a large apparatus of appointees to due his bidding. Ken Cockrel has consistently performed well at the polls, and has earned the top spot on the City Council with strong showings in each election.

He is a favorite among various sectors of the city, particularly with elements of the non-profit community as he has enjoyed their support. He also has had consistency with seniors who remember his father and approve of Ken Jr.’s approach to Council- pragmatic, non-ostentatious, and diligent in responding to citizen needs and request.

He has also enjoyed union support in most of his elections.

But this is no ordinary election coming up on May 5th, and some of the weakness that comes into play for him center on his new role being Mayor.

He has now a set of mayoral appointees, but many are holdovers from the Kilpatrick Administration. Will they be loyal to him and campaign with zeal, or will they go through the motions and have ties into other camps?

Indeed Cockrel's biggest challenge will be to balance the act of governing and campaigning.

While many would agree that he has experience and knowledge of issues affecting Detroit governance, Council members, by virtue of the City Charter is woefully devoid of information that affects service delivery. The budget discussions that council members have really are discussions of capacity and priority, while the administration is dealing with logistics and emergent issues.

Issues such as the following:

Campaign finances.

Non-disclosure of contributions received for high profile parties paid for by businesses.

After 11 years on Council Cockrel lacks knowledge of administrative procedures.

Supported Kilpatrick leanings 90% of the time when on Council.

Did not call for Kilpatrick’s resignation until the Detroit Free Press broke the story of the $8.4 million lawsuit.

The City’s $300 million debt was incurred under Cockrel’s not so watchful eye.

The Tunnel Deal – The Tunnel is one of the few revenue producing assets the City has. The sale of the Tunnel means a short- term gain for a long-term problem. If this deal goes through, the City will have to face the loss of this revenue in the next fiscal year.

Business friendly – Cockrel helps with downtown development but does not create a balance for the neighborhoods.

Cockrel was pursuing the money Mike Ilitch received from the city for maintenance of historic Tiger Stadium – I have not heard the results of Cockrel’s investigation.

Kim Cockrel was laid off from her job as a school teacher and immediately went to work for the DMC whose CEO is Conrad Mallett, a member of Kilpatrick’s transition team in 2001. As Ken Cockrel’s Campaign Manager, has Mrs. Cockrel taken an unpaid leave of absence from her position at the DMC?

To be perfectly honest Mayor Cockrel, in my opinion, is seriously overrated. He is not alert or aware as we had hoped he would be. His impression as Detroit City Council President was not strong at all. He was there, but not an impressive figure, and his role as Mayor has been equally unimpressive. Cockel platform is vague, and it's not clear what he's standing for. He says people will trust this administration, and the first thing we hear brings on a lack of trust.

Furthermore, what will Mayor Cockrel do to
suffice about the projects are being pursued by people who know what they are doing?

And if Mayor Cockrel is going to talk about demolition project, such as demolition by neglect, parking empires, and general blight generation, this has mostly been a private sector enterprise since the Depression – because the city overbuilt and could not fill the space. The city does not have eminent domain. Will Mayor Cockrel talk to the Ilitches about the off-hockey-site properties, Higgins about the Broderick about Capitol Park and the mental hospital about the owners of the office building and hotel at Park and Adams. And don’t forget that the biggest blight in the Central Business District (CBD) is a 7-acre parking lot at the corner of I-375 and Gratiot – priced never to sell.

What really hinders Detroit’s CBD development is lack of money, lack of resources, and a general lack of market demand (historically but especially now). If half the effort devoted to attacking “the city” were devoted to business attraction or actually running successful, market-rate businesses here, things like the Lafayette Building demolition would not even be on the table. But Mayor Cockrel wants to contract demolition experts from Macomb County and other areas instead of using demolition experts here in Detroit to tear down buildings for redevelopment?

Ken Cockrel is not President Obama or even close so I hope people do not look at him as Obama. To do so would make us a laughing stock in the City of Detroit and the region.

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