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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