DETROIT (AP) _ Facing criminal charges, possible imprisonment and the threat of removal from office, the usually upbeat, backslapping Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been all business as he goes about the job of promoting his fiscal plans and projects.
“I'm sure this whole saga has to be weighing on him heavily,'' Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “It's not unexpected. It would change how he's handled himself.''
Kilpatrick and Patterson frequently spar over economic issues involving the mostly black city and its affluent northern, mostly white suburbs.
After Kilpatrick was charged with eight felonies, Patterson called the scandal a 21st-century rerun of a classic Greek tragedy: fallen heroes, lost opportunities, unfulfilled promise.
The City Council's refusal to hear Kilpatrick's $3 billion budget plan is the latest in a series of embarrassing events dogging the popular mayor. The nine-member board, by a 7-1 vote, earlier had approved a nonbinding resolution calling for Kilpatrick's resignation.
When Kilpatrick walked into the Council chambers April 14, sat down and prepared to give his budget address, Council President Ken Cockrel informed him that he had talked over the matter with other members over the weekend, and they agreed not to hear from the mayor.
Kilpatrick stood, softly voiced displeasure at the rebuff, and quickly strode from the packed chambers. The trademark, confident grin so familiar to supporters and foes, disappeared in the embarrassment of the moment.
Ever since the Detroit Free Press in late January published excerpts of the intimate text messages left on the city-issued pager of his former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, the mayor has struggled with his public image.
The text messages appear to contradict statements Kilpatrick and Beatty made under oath last summer during a whistle-blowers' lawsuit by two former police officers. Kilpatrick and Beatty testified that they didn't have a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003. Kilpatrick also is accused of lying under oath about his role in the firing of one of the officers.
Kilpatrick hired the same Washington-based communications firm that worked with Monica Lewinsky, and restrictions on media access to the mayor have increased. Rarely are questions about the text-messaging scandal answered by Kilpatrick during press conferences.
The day he was arraigned on the felony charges, a decoy was used so he could slip into the court building undetected and evade reporters. A black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows, similar to the one the mayor often uses, parked out front with a man resembling the mayor sitting in the back seat. Members of Kilpatrick's security detail stood around the SUV.
As reporters flocked toward the Escalade, Kilpatrick walked in the building through a side entrance.
“The marginal costs of the simplest blunders are now magnified,'' said Michael LaFaive, of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Michigan-based nonpartisan research and educational institute analyzes local policy issues. “Now that he is more vulnerable, he is going to be more careful.''
The revelation of the text messages led to an investigation by the Wayne County prosecutor's office, and last month, Kilpatrick and Beatty were charged with perjury, misconduct and other felonies stemming from the whistle-blower testimony. They face a June 9 preliminary examination in Detroit's 36th District Court.
Two days after his arraignment, a very vocal Kilpatrick roused hundreds of supporters packed inside a Detroit church with a vow that he would not resign.
Since then, Kilpatrick has tried to show he remains focused on the city's business. He has held about a half-dozen media briefings promoting his $300 million economic stimulus plan, which he also has submitted to the Council, met with community and business leaders, attended ribbon-cutting ceremonies, and addressed the current class of police academy graduates.
“The mayor continues to be committed and dedicated to developing innovative initiatives and sound policies that benefit the citizens of Detroit,'' spokesman James Canning said in a statement.
“Due to the mayor's hard work our city is on solid financial ground. We've experienced an unprecedented economic development boom, and neighborhoods are finally receiving the attention they deserve.''
The Rev. Horace Sheffield III, a staunch Kilpatrick supporter has noticed changes in his public demeanor.
“He's remarkable in the sense that he has been able to go about doing the city's business,'' said Sheffield, pastor of New Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit.
“I don't know anybody who can deal with the constant negativity and not be affected. It has made him a little bit more sensitive to what people expect of him. There's really no room for fun and games.''
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who said after the mayor was charged that it will make it hard for him to properly perform his mayoral responsibilities, and Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chair William Crouchman also will participate.
Patterson expects a much different tone than in past forums.
“Last year we really had some laughs. I'm afraid that might be missing this year,'' he said.