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"He didn't know the whole scope of it until he actually got in there," Yvette says. "He knew it was bad, but he didn't know it was as bad as it is."
At least the hours stink. Bing usually arrives at his office by 7 a.m. Some days he gets there before most of his staff. The first thing he does is make the coffee: pot of regular, pot of hazelnut. Bing does not drink hazelnut coffee. But some of his staffers do, so he makes it.
By the time he gets back to his condo for dinner, 12 hours later, Bing is mayored out. Yvette asks about his day, and he cuts her off: I don't want to talk about that stuff. Then he sits on the couch and watches a game or a movie.
"He probably has some days where he lays up at his place on the river and says, Hell, this is some crazy s---," Beckham says. "It's a thankless job." It's so thankless that people wonder, What can he get out of this?
Kilpatrick seemed to treat city government as his personal ATM. His reign featured a credit-card scandal, a luxury-SUV scandal, a security-team scandal, a petty-cash-fund scandal, a nonprofit-foundation scandal, a cronyism scandal, a fire-the-whistleblowers scandal and of course a sex scandal, the last of which he covered up by lying under oath and settling a lawsuit with $8.4 million of city money.
Kilpatrick finally resigned in September 2008, then served 99 days in jail for obstruction of justice. But more scandals from his mayoralty may be forthcoming. Federal agents are still investigating other instances of alleged corruption in Kilpatrick's administration.
Bing was an early supporter of Kilpatrick's, but was also one of the first business leaders in Michigan to call for his resignation. He is the anti-Kilpatrick: While Kilpatrick appeared to revel in his celebrity, Bing has a subdued personality and little use for the trappings of the mayoralty. Nobody has accused Bing of using his new office for financial gain. He isn't even taking a salary.
And yet there is a segment of the city that remains suspicious of him. In southeast Michigan, one of the most racially and economically divided areas in the country, they say that where you live is a political statement. Bing's home was an easy target. It led to charges that Bing is a puppet of suburbia, a rich wolf in sheep's clothing.
Some people wonder if he cares—if he understands. Bing and his supporters point to his well-documented work in the community. He built his business in the city when conventional wisdom said he should start in the suburbs. He built affordable single-family homes in Detroit for little financial gain. In 1989, when the Detroit Public School district announced that all sports programs would be eliminated because of a budget crunch, Bing wrote a check for $250,000 then raised $150,000 more to save them.
He has done more than his share to help the city. But that's not what the skeptics mean when they wonder if he understands. They want something deeper, more personal. They want to know he has bled.