Patterson (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has never been shy about his views of Detroit, and his remarks in the New Yorker have sparked familiar ire.
In a feature titled “Drop Dead, Detroit!” due out Monday but available to subscribers earlier, Patterson gave a magazine reporter an extensive tour of Oakland County and offered his take, again, on Detroit.
“Anytime I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive,” Patterson says. “Therefore, I’m called a Detroit basher. The truth hurts, you know? Tough (expletive).”
Patterson tells Paige Williams: “I used to say to my kids, ‘First of all, there’s no reason for you to go to Detroit. We’ve got restaurants out here.’ They don’t even have movie theatres in Detroit — not one.” He went on: “I can’t imagine finding something in Detroit that we don’t have in spades here. Except for live sports. We don’t have baseball, football. For that, fine — get in and get out. But park right next to the venue — spend the extra twenty or thirty bucks. And, before you go to Detroit, you get your gas out here. You do not, do not, under any circumstances, stop in Detroit at a gas station! That’s just a call for a carjacking.”
The article included an anecdote about Patterson speaking at a roast for an employee who moved to Kentucky. When the worker saw a bumper sticked that read “I miss Detroit,” he “broke the window, stole the radio and left a note that said, ‘I hope this cures your homesickness,’” the article quoted Patterson as saying.
Williams asked Patterson what Detroit could do to fix its financial problem.
“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.”
The remarks drew criticism from a community activist. The Rev. Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, called for a public apology from Patterson and a meeting with L. Brooks Patterson, the American Indian community and local Detroiters.
“These remarks are repulsive and racist,” Williams said in a statement. “Not just because the city of Detroit is over 80 percent African-American, but because it is also a direct slight to the American Indian who occupied the land before Detroit was Detroit and Oakland County was Oakland County.”
Bill Mullan, spokesman for Oakland County, said the story about Patterson “cast him in a false light.”
“It is clear Paige Williams had an agenda when she interviewed County Executive Patterson,” Mullan said in a statement. “She cast him in a false light in order to fit her preconceived and outdated notions about the region. Mr. Patterson’s record on advancing regional issues in a transparent and responsible manner is unparalleled. His initiatives have had a positive impact on the region such as Automation Alley, CLEMIS, and his leadership on the Cobo Authority.”
Patterson, known for his blunt remarks, over the years has weighed in on issues facing Detroit, including former Kwame Kilpatrick’s downfall — "This is the end of a long Greek tragedy" — threatened a rift in regional alliances over such issues as selling Detroit Institute of Arts paintings, where he “draws a line in the sand,” millage payouts for the Detroit Zoo and the proposed creation of a Metro Detroit regional water authority over fears of higher water rates for county residents.
He tried to lure the auto show, going on now in a renovated Cobo Center in Detroit, to Novi. The center now is run by an authority consisting of members appointed by the governor, Detroit — and county executives from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb.
Mayor Mike Duggan, through his spokesman, declined to comment late Monday on Patterson’s remarks. Duggan met with Paige Williams and Patterson for a portion of the magazine interview.
Bill Nowling, spokesman for Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and some members of the Detroit City Council didn’t immediately return requests for comments.