By Charlie LeDuff
No one in the media wants to admit it, but we're really going to miss L. Brooks Patterson when he decides to hang up the spurs. He makes the job easy. He says stuff.
This time the Oakland County executive cracked "I'd rather join the Klan" than a group of 23 CEOs who want to form a sort of super chamber of commerce to make decisions about rebuilding Detroit and the region.
Patterson has apologized. And we wrote stories.
The Klan crack is right up there with the time he told The New Yorker magazine that his prediction had come to pass: "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."
Babbling Brooksy apologized for denigrating Native Americans when he was putting down African Americans. And we wrote stories.
Patterson recently called Mayor Mike Duggan a dick and a creep. He once encouraged Wayne County CEO Bob Ficano to have a glass of wine in his garage with the doors closed and the motor running. Booyah! Great stuff! We wrote stories.
We paste Patterson as a crank, a racist, a doddering old fool whose time has come after seven terms. And maybe it is. But we're going to miss him because without stuff like that dribbling from his jowls, we'd actually have to do some work.
Consider the context in which he made the klan comparison. He was talking about 23 wealthy business elites making decisions that elected representatives used to make around here; the regional transportation plan being the latest of many.
Few really looked at the detail of that, which would tax the homes of Detroiters and suburbanites alike. Buried deep inside was the fact that 30% of those property taxes levied in Detroit would not go for buses, but rather into the pockets of that same downtown business set.
Increasingly, these business leaders dip their beaks into the public bank in the name of development, but the public bank doesn't recoup its investment -- things like sports stadiums that don't share revenue or pay rent to the city or create enough well paying jobs to break even.
Ask yourself what out-of-towner has dropped anchor in Detroit beyond absentee real estate speculators? Amazon didn't even give us a sniff and no reporter can say for sure that Amazon sidestepped Detroit because it didn't have a commuter train. We simply reported it as fact.
Look at all the real estate and development deals that go to the local big boys and girls. Where are the bids? The requests for proposals? The media rarely dives into the grimy details. We're simply happy to call it Comeback City.
Grumpy old Brooks bitches about Detroit siphoning off his county's businesses, which is exactly what Patterson did to Detroit to build his kingdom north of Eight Mile. But at least they paid taxes in Oakland County, which has a $400 million cash reserve, little debt, a triple A bond rating and no looming pension cliff.
I'm no fan of big government, but good government is designed to keep the powerful in check: looking among the Super Group of these 23 Lordships, we see federal settlements over kickbacks at the hospital, a looming federal trial over massive mortgage fraud, a $900 million federal settlement over faulty ignition switches at the car company, a state investigation into the power company's inability to keep the lights on, recipients of local no-bid government contracts and check-writers to disgraced former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick...
Ah, screw it. Say something stupid Brooks.