Michigan County Executive Under Fire for Controversial Quips About Detroit
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has spent this week on the defensive after he was quoted harshly criticizing Detroit in a controversial New Yorker article.
Oakland County, Mich., Executive L. Brooks Patterson has spent this week on the defensive after he was quoted harshly criticizing Detroit in a controversial New Yorker article.
It’s not the first time Patterson, 74, has made blunt comments about the Motor City, which is located just south of more affluent Oakland County. But the article, called “Drop Dead, Detroit!” has fired up area politicians and the local media for the racial undertones of some of his quotations. Patterson said this week that most of the quotes causing the controversy were decades-old and taken out of context.
In particular, New Yorker writer Paige Williams quoted Patterson in reference to Detroit’s finances as saying, “I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.’”
Patterson told Governing on Thursday that the prediction was a 37-year-old comment he made while trying to draw a parallel to the city’s struggling black population that was floundering for help and the federal government addressing the Native Americans' plight by creating reservations that cut them off from the outside world.
“The black community in the area, they are being treated like the Indians were,” Patterson said Thursday.
The longtime county executive also took issue with his portrayal in the story, calling it an “ambush” and said the reporter led him to believe it would be a story about Oakland County’s booming economy versus Wayne County's struggling one. Patterson, who was recently named one of Governing’s Public Officials of the Year, was the leader behind the business association Automation Alley, which has made Southeast Michigan a top draw for tech companies and is a big reason why Michigan has landed on top tech lists in the past five years.
The biggest insult, Patterson said, was the use of the word chauffeur to describe the driver of Patterson’s minivan. “I was in a car accident. I can’t drive. I’m in a wheelchair,” he said. "I’m not being chauffeured.”
Williams, the reporter, told the Detroit Free Press earlier this week the article was a balanced portrait. “Our focus was simply to explore what made Oakland County so successful,” she said. “That’s what we did do.”
Several groups have called on Patterson to apologize and he has issued statements to several local media outlets and appeared on a few local radio shows. But he said Thursday he won’t apologize for his comments.
“To apologize would be to give credence to that article," he said, "and I’m not going to.”
We invite you to discuss and comment on this article using social media.
LATEST FINANCE HEADLINES
Transportation Advocates to Trump: Where's the Money?2 minutes ago
Judge: Regardless of Illinois' Historic Budget Stalemate, Lawmakers Must Get Paid4 hours ago
The Week in Public Finance: Detroit's Big Pension Plan, Debating the Pension Crisis and Counties Under the Gun3 days ago
Eyeing Trump’s Budget Plan, Republican Governors Say ‘No, Thanks’4 days ago
States Go Old School to Fight Tax Fraud4 days ago
Airbnb Strikes Tax Deal With Miami-Dade Mayor1 week ago
Intro to Commercial Surety Bonds