Mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon tries to clarify divisive words about Palmer Woods

Detroit mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon is seeking to distance himself from the divisive comments he made about Palmer Woods after a speech at New Bethel Baptist Church on Sunday.

Napoleon has been trying to distinguish himself from his most viable candidate, former Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan, who is white and recently moved back to his childhood city, settling on the relatively affluent neighborhood of Palmer Woods.

At the church, Napoleon said Palmer Woods is not Detroit.

Napoleon wants to be seen as the everyday Detroiter who has struggled in hardscrabble neighborhoods with diminished services. That’s in stark contrast to Duggan, former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, who moved from Livonia to Palmer Woods to join the mayoral race after spending most of his life outside of the city.
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“Palmer Woods is not Detroit?” Napoleon asked today. “Nothing is further from the truth. 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.”

Napoleon’s “clarification” may be too late for many Palmer Woods residents like Dorothy Brown, who said she’s tired of divisions created by city leaders.

“It’s discouraging,” Brown said. “It’s hard to stay in a city where everyone wants to divide you. Let’s grow together, as one Detroit. How hard can that be?”

Neighbor Jane Hill scoffed at the suggestion that Palmer Woods residents don’t suffer and experience Detroit’s problems.

“Who does he think he is?” Hill said of Napoleon. “He doesn’t know what we go through everyday. Maybe he doesn’t know Detroit as well as he thinks he does.”

Napoleon, whose us-versus-them attitude could hurt relations with the suburbs and state, said he’s happy that outsiders are supporting the city, but the leadership belongs to true Detroiters.

“As Detroiters, we embrace our city’s non-residential stakeholders,” Napoleon said. “We embrace the fact that many are rooting for us; understanding that we will never have a thriving state of Michigan, or southeast region without a vibrant city of Detroit. However, they should respect that those of us who raise families here amid the crime, joblessness, dwindling city services and a struggling education system, and understand how personal it is when one lives amongst it.”

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.

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