Mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon a man of the people? He doesn’t live like it

Mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon says he understand the tough realities of living in Detroit’s hardscrabble neighborhoods because he lives in one himself.

Napoleon last week took a shot at his opponent, Mike Duggan, for living in a relatively safe and affluent neighborhood, Palmer Woods.

“Hell no, Palmer Woods is not Detroit,” Napoleon said on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at New Bethel Baptist Church on Tuesday.

Turns out, Napoleon, who makes more than $100,000 a year, doesn’t exactly live in a poor, hardscrabble neighborhood. His Oakman Boulevard home – nearly 3,000 square feet with a sizable, fenced-in backyard – is surrounded by eight blocks without a single abandoned house, which is an anomaly in Detroit. The neighborhood is clean and well-lit, lined with big homes, healthy trees and a grassy median.

Napoleon lives less than a block north of an affluent neighborhood in Dearborn that rivals areas of Grosse Pointe because of its stately homes.

Compared to the rest of the city, Napoleon’s neighborhood is among the safest and most stable.
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It lost 10% of its population since 2000; Detroit lost a quarter. In Napoleon’s neighborhood, about 75% of the houses are owned, while half of the city’s homes are rented.

Still, Napoleon insisted he’s a better candidate for struggling Detroiters because he doesn’t live in a comfy place like Palmer Woods.

“They don’t have to deal with drive by shootings or drug houses next-door to them,” Napoleon said on the Craig Fahle Show on WDET. “If you’re not living in that environment certainly you can sympathize and empathize with people who do but it’s not your existence. Your existence is completely different and we need to focus on the existence of those people who are living in these neighborhoods that are experiencing a crime rate that is five times the national average. That is totally and woefully unacceptable.”

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Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.    

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.