A fitting punishment for Kwame Kilpatrick, and maybe a fresh start for Detroit

Kwame Kilpatrick went to prison Tuesday, and we can think of no finer destination for the disgraced former Detroit mayor.

Kilpatrick showed little but contempt for the city with a costly text-message scandal as mayor, and for the court system by failing to pay his debts. He fully earned his punishment behind bars.

The hope now for Detroit — and Michigan, by extension — is that Kilpatrick can be forgotten as the city enters a new era.

Mayor Dave Bing has moved with authority to address the city’s crippling budget problems and asked public employees to make the sacrifices that requires. In the wake of an officer’s death, police are pledging to root out the terrifying crime that the city accepts as routine.

In the Detroit schools — the state’s largest public school system — Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb has tackled a culture of corruption and is trying to reduce the number of schools to match falling enrollment.

The notion of a Detroit rebirth is not new. You can see it in the name of one recent business-driven effort, Detroit Renaissance. The city had a competent mayor, too, in Dennis Archer not long ago, and he didn’t dramatically help the city’s image, crime or economy.

Still, the prison sentence for Kilpatrick is a significant break with the past. It closes one painful chapter for the city. Now, Bing and others can focus on giving Detroit a future full of hope.

If Detroit can recover over time, that will strengthen the entire state economy.