The year 2013, the year of the next Detroit mayoral election, was hours old when the first salvo was fired by a candidate at another, and---surprise---it had the tinges of race baiting to it.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, by all indications a pretty smart guy, said something un-smart that was clearly aimed at presumed candidate Mike Duggan.
Napoleon told a reporter that Palmer Woods, one of the city's jewels when it comes to neighborhoods, wasn't really a part of Detroit.
Palmer Woods is where Duggan has recently taken up residence as he presumably prepares for a run at Dave Bing's job---whether Bing runs for re-election or not. Duggan, as we all know, is white.
The day after saying flat out that Palmer Woods is not Detroit, Napoleon backpedaled.
"Palmer Woods is not Detroit? Nothing is further from the truth," Napoleon wrote on Facebook. "It is one of our prized neighborhoods. However, the Palmer Woods experience is far different from that of the average Detroiter’s neighborhood experience. Most Detroiters, including those in Palmer Woods, understand that without clarification. But to set the record straight, I believe Palmer Woods is not only Detroit, it is what we want Detroit neighborhoods to aspire to be. And our city won’t be transformed until the Palmer Woods experience is one that is shared by all Detroiters."
Nicely played. For now.
It didn't figure to take long before Duggan, aiming to become Detroit's first white mayor since Roman Gribbs left office on December 31, 1973, was taken a shot at by the (so far) rather small field of fellow candidates. And it wasn't surprising that the shot taken focused on Duggan's choice of residence.
Duggan lived for years in Livonia, which is as white as salt, for the most part. He moved to Palmer Woods last year.
Wayne County Sheriff and Detroit mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon
Napoleon recovered nicely, for the most part, from his gaffe. But it still displayed, within him, the old refrain.
You're not a Detroiter unless your trash doesn't get picked up. You're not a Detroiter unless your street lights are out for months. You're not a Detroiter unless you live among abandoned homes and crack houses. You're not a Detroiter unless you are out of work and are bereft of hope.
Is that how we want the next mayor to look at things?
We'd rather have him (or her) look at the city the way Napoleon did in his backpedaling statement on Facebook. To wit: "But to set the record straight, I believe Palmer Woods is not only Detroit, it is what we want Detroit neighborhoods to aspire to be. And our city won’t be transformed until the Palmer Woods experience is one that is shared by all Detroiters."
Too bad that's not what Benny Napoleon said the first time around. Then again, political candidates often need two tries to get it right. At least.