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Published: Friday, 9/19/2008

Detroit's new mayor sworn in, says 'time for hope'

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr., right, is sworn in by U.S. Appeals Court Judge Damon Keith on Friday. Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr., right, is sworn in by U.S. Appeals Court Judge Damon Keith on Friday.
CARLOS OSORIO / AP Enlarge

DETROIT Ken Cockrel Jr. became the city's new mayor on Friday, vaulted into office by a sex scandal that destroyed the reign of Kwame Kilpatrick and threw government into chaos for months.

Cockrel, who was president of the City Council, took the oath of office Wednesday, but the change didn't take effect until 12:01 a.m. Friday.

He also was sworn in as Detroit's 61st mayor by U.S. Appeals Court Judge Damon Keith during a special mid-morning ceremony at the downtown municipal center.

Cockrel repeated the oath of office, then spoke about leaving behind the Kilpatrick sex-and-text scandal and charting a new course for the city.

"This is our time for hope and also for renewal," the new mayor said. "It's our time to breathe life back into the city."

Cockrel has hired a former federal prosecutor as deputy mayor, picked a police chief and urged residents to put their trust in the new team at City Hall.

He also said getting his hands on the city's budget problems is a priority and already has met with outside auditors from KPMG. Other priorities include finalizing a plan to expand Cobo Center, a convention center that's home to the North American International Auto Show and that has been widely criticized for its inadequate space and amenities.

"From this moment on, the past is the past," Cockrel said after being publicly sworn in.

"Because of the events of the past several months, it's critical that we find closure, mend our wounds, treat our bumps and our bruises and heal as a city," the 42-year-old former newspaper reporter said.

He received loud applause from the standing-room-only crowd in the auditorium when he called on residents and business owners to improve the city's cleanliness by sweeping storefronts and clearing trash from parking lots.

"I call on all Detroiters to do what we were taught to do as children: That is to pick up after ourselves."

Kilpatrick, a Democrat, left office Thursday and will go to jail next month as part of a recent plea deal with prosecutors. He admitted lying on the witness stand in a civil lawsuit over the firing of two police officers.

Before taking a trip outside Michigan, Kilpatrick released a statement urging residents to get behind Cockrel, a fellow Democrat.

"He will need your support because the job of mayor requires making the tough but not always popular decisions in order to advance our city. ... God bless Detroit," said Kilpatrick, mayor for nearly seven years.

His problems began in January when the Detroit Free Press published red-hot text messages between Kilpatrick and top aide Christine Beatty, which contradicted courtroom denials of an extramarital affair and led to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

Separately, the City Council said it didn't know that an $8.4-million settlement with three former officers last year included a side deal to keep a lid on the lusty messages.

Kilpatrick's 120-day jail sentence starts Oct. 28.

Beatty, who also was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, appeared in court Friday and had a trial date set for Jan. 5.

She refused to accept a plea deal with prosecutors this week that would have given her 60 days in jail.

Kilpatrick's term runs through 2009. The winner of a nonpartisan special election May 5 will fill the balance of the term. A primary election to trim the field to two candidates will be held Feb. 24.

Cockrel reiterated after his speech that he will run in the special election, but his focus now is on "doing the job of mayor rather than campaigning to keep it."

Businessman and ex-Detroit Pistons star Dave Bing also said he's running, confirming his intention to enter the race in an interview this week with Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley.

Bing, 64, played for the Pistons from 1966 to 1975 and has run The Bing Group for 28 years.

Also sworn in Friday was Monica Conyers, the council's new president. She and Cockrel have sparred in the past, including her publicly calling him "Shrek" a reference to the animated, green movie ogre.

On Friday, she compared such incidents to "spousal spats" and didn't anticipate future problems.

"It seems like we're going to be on the same ground, same footing," she said. "I hope our working relationship is going to be productive."

Hopes that city leaders can work together to get something done also are high for Talib Abdulhaqq, a 69-year-old Detroit resident. He did not attend Thursday's ceremony, but was a short walk away on Detroit's riverfront near Cobo Center where he planned to attend teaching sessions on the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Abdulhaqq, a former truck driver and teacher, said he's glad Kilpatrick is gone but likely won't vote for Cockrel.

"He's from the City Council, and the City Council hasn't really served the city like it should," he said



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