LeDuff: Does Detroit have a bright future? A jury will decide - New York News

LeDuff: Does Detroit have a bright future? A jury will decide

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DETROIT -

As a reporter in Detroit, people often ask me if there is a future for the Motor City.

I tell them all, yes, there is a bright future here.

Thanks to the American taxpayer and their generous bailout, we have three coherent automobile companies again -- all of which posted profits last year. And more good news: February sales are up nine percent at Ford from a year ago; up seven percent for General Motors and up four percent for Chrysler -- its best February since 2008.

Then there is trade. More than one-quarter of the $700 billion in trade between the United States and Canada crossed over the Ambassador Bridge in 2011. With a new bridge on its way that trade number will surely increase, making Detroit the future port city of America. Those are real jobs, folks.

And whatever you think of Gov. Rick Snyder and the state takeover of Detroit's finances, you have to admit that after 16 consecutive years of Darth Engler and Turn-Your-Head Jen, it's refreshing to see a governor who understands the importance of Detroit and the suffering of its residents.

We have the FBI and the U.S. Attorney working overtime on flushing out public corruption, a problem that has plagued Detroit for 100 years. A culture of deceit that was masked by incredible wealth generated from the automobile factories.

That's the future. But I say there can be no future until we order the present. Which brings me to the federal courthouse, where a jury is deciding the fate of disgraced former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and their contractor pal Bobby Ferguson.

They stand accused of using the city coffers as their own private piggybank: 38 counts including racketeering, extortion, bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

We come to find out Kilpatrick spent at least $800,000 dollars beyond his mayoral salary, his lawyers explaining it as "gifts" without saying who supplied those gifts.

Kilpatrick's political fundraiser Emma Bell said she paid Kilpatrick kickbacks from those political donations from her bra. His former high school pal and top aide Derrick Miller said he passed along to Kilpatrick a $10,000 bribe in a toilet stall. Karl Kado, a former contractor, said he gave bribes to Kilpatrick in brown paper bags. Wiretapped conversations, text messages, cash stuffed in a vacuum cleaner. Another co-defendant, Victor Mercado, the former water department director, cut his losses and pled guilty early in the trial.

(As an aside, remember seeing Kilpatrick on television waving to adoring fans outside the courthouse? Every time I was there, he was waving to nobody. A phantom. He was faking it.)

It seems that Kilpatrick is guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. If so, he should go to prison for looting the city and its people.  He is in part responsible for the state takeover of the city's finances. He is in part responsible for the death of children who wait for an ambulance that never comes.

But as one of the defense lawyers told me on the street early this winter: "It only takes one juror."

I pray that juror is assigned to another case. Because anything short of a conviction means this city has no future. It will say to the politicians and the contractors who grease those politicians that there are no laws, no consequences. It's business as usual. Detroit is for sale.

Anything short of a conviction means the Wayne County corruption investigation will stop dead in its tracks. If they can't win a case that seems as open and shut as this one, you can bet the house that the feds will not bring another public fraud case in this town for at least a generation. It means Detroit has no future.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of having to stare over at Windsor whenever I want a glimpse of the American Dream.

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