New mayor pledges to 'breathe life' into Detroit

The Associated Press
Friday, September 19, 2008; 5:24 PM

DETROIT -- This downtrodden and scandal-scarred city's new mayor called on residents Friday to work hard, work together and _ name-checking a favorite sci-fi series _ to "boldly go where no one has gone before."

"We are truly entering uncharted territory," Ken Cockrel Jr. said at the close of his inaugural address during a mid-morning ceremony at a downtown municipal center.

"No mayor has ever had to ask so much of his citizens as what I am going to ask of you. But I would not be asking that if I didn't know that you and we are up to the challenge."

Cockrel, formerly City Council president, was vaulted into office by a sex scandal that destroyed the reign of Kwame Kilpatrick and threw the city government into chaos for months. Kilpatrick, once dubbed the "hip-hop mayor," left office Thursday and will go to jail next month as part of plea deal.

Cockrel took the oath of office Wednesday, but the change didn't take effect until 12:01 a.m. Friday. He was sworn in later in the morning as Detroit's 61st mayor by U.S. Appeals Court Judge Damon Keith. He repeated the oath of office, then spoke about leaving behind the Kilpatrick scandal.

"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 already hired a former federal prosecutor as deputy mayor, picked a police chief and urged residents to trust the new team at City Hall.

"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," said the 42-year-old former newspaper reporter.

He received loud applause from the standing-room-only crowd of hundreds in the auditorium when he implored residents and business owners to improve the city's appearance 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."

Cockrel struck a personal tone in his address, calling himself a "geek" who loves science fiction and action movies and watches the special features on DVDs into the wee hours of the morning.

Settling down to business, he said that getting a handle on the city's budget problems is a high priority and that he has already has met with outside auditors. A comprehensive financial report will improve the city's relations with the state, Cockrel told reporters at an afternoon briefing.

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