Motor City Madness

We met up with Mrs. John Conyers when an eighth grade visitor to the Detroit City Council chambers instructed her in the basics of civil discourse. Mrs. Conyers put up a bit of a fight, but 13-year-old Keiara Bell had the better of the argument. On Tuesday Katherine Rosman caught up with the story in the Wall Street Journal. It turns out that Mrs. Conyers is a key City Council supporter of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, whose misconduct has directly cost the city millions of dollars in legal settlements. Mayor Kilpatrick is still on the job working hard — to beat the related perjury rap. Richard Burr summarizes the case in “Motor Mouth City.”

In the most recent developments of the story, the Detroit City Council voted 5-4 to call for Governor Granholm to remove Kilpatrick from office. Still on the job, however, Mayor Kilpatrick has vetoed the resolution. The Detroit News reports:

In a 10-page letter sent Tuesday vetoing a resolution asking Gov. Jennifer Granholm to remove him, Kilpatrick warned that ousting an elected official is “irresponsible” and deprives voters of their rights. The city charter doesn’t allow him to veto the resolution calling for the start of impeachment-like proceedings next month, but Kilpatrick called the move “legally deficient.”

Kilpatrick’s letter, drafted by the Law Department, claims the council can only remove him if he was convicted of a felony or “lacked qualifications” to serve in office.

The argument is “brainless,” said William Goodman, an attorney hired by the City Council to investigate the $8.4 million text-message scandal that has engulfed City Hall since January. The city charter clearly supports both actions, Goodman said.

It wasn’t immediately clear late Tuesday if Kilpatrick’s action carried any weight. Liz Boyd, a spokeswoman for Granholm, declined comment. Some observers called it more saber rattling than a serious effort to derail the council’s efforts, since state law only requires the governor receive a sworn statement from one person to begin considering removal of officials.

In the spirit of Keiara Bell, the Detroit Free Press has provided intelligent commentary on the proceedings. In today’s editorial, the Free Press observes:

Kilpatrick’s behavior Tuesday is all about self-preservation and aggrandizement. What else could explain a move so futile, so redolent of the fantastical ploys you’d be more likely to find in an Alice-in-Wonderland type of story?

On what basis does the mayor really believe he might veto an effort that attempts to remove him for misconduct? It’s absurdity gone wild.

And a compelling case study in the challenges of democratic self-rule.

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