A Week with L. Brooks Patterson Nets New Yorker a Juicy Profile

A Week with L. Brooks Patterson Nets New Yorker a Juicy ProfileStreet-Eatzz-Ad

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 20, 2014)

Amid the dry and bureaucratic world of county-level governance, and the slow-moving pace of progress in the revitalization of a community hurt by economic loss, corrupt leadership and racial divide, The New Yorker has managed to find a juicy nerve to gnaw on: L. Brooks Patterson.

After spending a week with the 75-year-old longtime Oakland County Executive, New Yorker reporter Paige Williams wrote a profile titled “Drop Dead Detroit: The suburban kingpin who is thriving off the city’s decline.”

The full article is only available to those who pay for a subscription to the publication.  In it, reporter Paige DENGATE _Fern115_AdWilliams blends Patterson’s accomplishments with anecdotes of his personal and professional life, and spices it up with politically incorrect commentary he shared during her visit.

“One week in September, he gave me an extended tour of his empire, in a chauffeured minivan,” Williams wrote. “Near the end of the first day, we headed toward Lake St. Clair, at the mouth of the Detroit River, for a party on a yacht. Patterson sat in the front passenger seat. Over his shoulder, he said, “Anytime I talk about Detroit, it will not be positive. Therefore, I’m called a Detroit basher. The truth hurts, you know? Tough shit.”

Stereotypes of Detroit and the divide between the wealthy suburb and the city in bankruptcy led the way in William’s article, reinforcing a separatist image that even some of Patterson’s own initiatives were intended to counteract.  In response to the article, Patterson’s Communications Officer Bill Mullan noted “Mr. Patterson’s record on advancing regional issues in a transparent and responsible manner is unparalleled. His initiatives – including such as Automation Alley, the regional law enforcement management system HowesLocationCLEMIS, and his leadership on the Cobo Authority – have had a highly positive and nationally recognized impact on the region.”

The article lists achievements such as the County’s high bond rating, Patterson’s 21-year-history of governance, and his affection for sprawling development.

Yet the remarks made by the Executive are what stand out most to critics and cheerleaders alike, overshadowing any positives that had been mentioned.

For example, when asked how Detroit might solve its financial woes, Patterson said “I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re going to 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.’”

And another quote stating “And, before you go to Detroit, you get your gas out here. You do not, do not, DDAsample01under any circumstances, stop in Detroit at a gas station! That’s just a call for a carjacking.”

While Patterson’s Communications Officer did not deny the quotes, he did say in a statement “It is clear Paige Williams had an agenda when she interviewed County Executive Patterson. She cast him in a false light in order to fit her preconceived and outdated notions about the region.”

Democrats in particular have stepped forward to condemn Patterson’s remarks. Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson was among them, posting on Facebook “Brooks Patterson’s comments on Detroit to the New Yorker were incredibly offensive. When Republican politicians make these kinds of offensive and divisive comments, it sets our state back.”

The entire article can be viewed by subscribers of The New Yorker at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/01/27/140127fa_fact_williams.

UPDATE: Patterson’s office has issued another statement on Jan. 21:

“I regret that something I said 30 years ago is causing such consternation today. I have worked hard to build good relationships with some of the past mayors of Detroit. I do not intend for The New Yorker article to damage my relationship with Mayor Duggan and I look forward to working with him over the next four years.

“I want to remind Mayor Duggan of what I said at the Big 4 Luncheon at the Auto Show last week and these are my true feelings: That I want to work with him, and I want to make sure that any project that he has that I can be supportive of, to give me a call.

“The reporter, Paige Williams, told us she wanted to compare and contrast Detroit and Oakland County: why Oakland County is well managed and why on our southern border a great American city is in bankruptcy. For several days, my staff and I spoke with her about our office management style, the ways we have assisted Detroit, regional success stories such as the Cobo Authority, and the county’s major programs that are having a positive impact on the region. We are beyond disappointed that none of those in-depth discussions made it into the article for balance.”

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