Scorned City Law Boss Krystal Crittendon Wants Dave Bing's Job

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Krystal Crittendon, the former top city attorney whose legal challenge last year sought to torpedo the state’s financial agreement with Detroit, announced Thursday night she is running for mayor.

Speaking to an overflow crowd of more than 150 people at Bert’s Marketplace in Eastern Market, Crittendon said she stood for jobs, self-determination and a balance between developing downtown and Midtown and Detroit’s collapsing neighborhoods.

“There’s a lot of money being spent in certain areas of the city,” she told Deadline Detroit after her announcement.

“But the neighborhoods are hurting. People live next door to abandoned homes they can’t get torn down. There’s some wonderful things going on in Detroit, but we have to make sure everybody is participating in the city’s rebirth.”

Downtown vs. the neighborhoods has been an issue in mayoral campaigns at least since the 1980s, when Tom Barrow twice challenged Coleman Young and drew attention to the imbalance between the central business district and the rest of Detroit.

What has changed in nearly three decades is the gap has grown wider. Downtown and Midtown have gained energy and development far beyond what they had 30 years ago, and the neighborhoods – and city services – have declined to a point that was unimaginable when Barrow first took on Young in 1985.

Crittendon’s populist approach will resonate in many corners of Detroit, and the crowd at Bert’s, which included a cross-section of city residents plus Barbara-Rose Collins, the former City Councilwoman and member of Congress, was enthusiastic.

Yet Crittendon acknowledged she has yet to raise much money, and that will be a problem when two other candidates are Mike Duggan, the recently retired CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, and Wayne County Sheriff Bennie Napoleon, both well-known veterans of Detroit public life who are actively fund-raising.

“We have raised some money,” Crittendon said. “But you aren’t going to need $5-6-7 million unless you plan on paying people to vote for you. If I can get people behind me I’ll be o.k.”

Crittendon, 49, grew up in Detroit and graduated from Wayne State University and the Detroit College of Law. After working quietly as an attorney in the city’s law department, interim Mayor Ken Cockrel Jr. appointed her corporation counsel in 2009. Mayor Dave Bing kept her on after he was elected.

On Jan. 1, her powers grew when the new city charter – written, in part, as a reaction against abuses under Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick -- took effect. After the state and city agreed on a financial stability agreement with the state, Crittendon determined that it violated the charter.

At first, Bing sided with Crittendon, as she filed a lawsuit against the deal. In a development that illustrates the disarray of city government under Bing, the mayor subsequently changed his mind and demanded Crittendon drop her suit and resign. She refused, even after the courts ruled against her position.

Finally, after months of bickering, Bing mustered enough votes on the council to fire Crittendon as the city’s top lawyer, but she was able to revert to her former position as a staff attorney in the department.

She said her run for mayor is not revenge against Bing, who has not said if he is running but appears to be set on retirement. 

“Absolutely not,” she said. “We had been meeting for months with people before all that happened. The biggest reason I’m running is I’m concerned that we have someone acting in the best interest of the city.”

Phillip Brown, also a lawyer in the city law department who said he has known Crittendon for years, praised her intelligence and ability to get the best out of people.

“She looked at the people running and said, ‘I got to do this,”’ Brown said.

“She’s got no money and little name recognition, really. But I think people are going to be surprised.”

In addition to Duggan and Napoleon, who are running but officially unannounced, other candidates are former state Rep. Lisa Howze and state Rep. Fred Durhal Jr.

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