Unmade in Detroit

kwameYou don’t read this everyday. Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley writes that an influential Christian minister in Detroit is calling on the city’s embattled mayor to resign. Her story explains why the Rev. Edgar Vann joined a growing list of pastors to urge Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to step down.

Vann helped get Kilpatrick elected as Detroit’s youngest mayor, and the mayor stood next to Vann as the pastor built dozens of homes near his sanctuary, Second Ebenezer, ran successful youth programs and nurtured a booming congregation.

Vann said he was watching a shooting star.

But now Vann believes the time has come to extinguish that star. He says he intends to call on the city’s spiritual community to stand up, speak up and work together to convince Kilpatrick to put the city before himself.

“I just feel that the mayor came into office with a lot of promise, a lot of potential, some very unique gifts to help Detroit be better,” he said. “I think that what we have over the city now is this abyss of darkness that prevents us from moving forward. … And so I think the time has come for the mayor to resign.”

Call me intrigued. I have lived in four cities — Baton Rouge, New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. — and read a lot about 20th-century urban politics. While I recognize that big-city politics and Detroit’s problems are unique, I have never heard about local ministers urging the city’s top political official to resign. Riley’s story conveyed to readers the power that local ministers can have.

And if only Riley had included the voices of more ministers in her story, not to mention that of Mayor Kilpatrick or a spokesperson at least. What do they think of Vann’s opposition?

Her story would not only have been stronger, showing the depth of opposition to the mayor; it also would have been fairer. Riley mentions that Vann is “whispered about as a mayoral hopeful.” This tidbit raises questions about Vann. Is he opposing Kilpatrick to further a political career? Is he using Riley’s column to advance himself?

By not handing over her megaphone to other pastors and Kilpatric’s people, Riley raised too many question in an otherwise interesting story.

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  • http://markbyron.typepad.com/main/ Mark Byron

    There is no shortage of coverage of Kirkpatrick in the Detroit press; many people have weighed in on the mayor, who is up on purgery charges after trying to cover up an affair with an aide. He was in the news last week as he was jailed overnight after going to neighboring Windsor, Ontario on city business without notifying the judge in the purgery case.

    This is just one of many pieces on the Kirkpatrick case; try searching the Detroit News or Free Press for more coverage.

  • Stephen A.

    Mark Byron, the mayor’s problems have been all over the news, nationwide. But this pastor’s call for him to resign, or any others’ similar calls, have not.

  • Martha

    Mmm – so it could be CYA on the part of the pastor? Having hitched his wagon to this particular shooting star, it would be bad PR (to say the least) for a minister and place of worship to be associated with adultery and perjury by a public official?

    So, just as it became politically expedient for Obama to discard the Reverend Wright, here we have the same thing in reverse – the minister ditching the politician, this time.

  • Pete

    An Afro-American clergy group has weighed in on the issue. See coverage at:
    http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080812/NEWS01/80812046
    and
    http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080812/METRO/808120447
    It may also be interesting to see the comments posted after the Free Press article. It is unfortunately common that issues concerning race — and certainly including the mayor — draw a particularly ugly element to surface in the Detroit area.


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