Drop Dead, Detroit!
For the past twenty-one years, L. Brooks Patterson has governed Oakland County, a large, affluent suburb of Detroit. Oakland County embodies fiscal success as much as Detroit does financial ruin, and Patterson, the county executive, tends to behave as though his chief job in life were to never let anyone forget it. One week in September, he gave me an extended tour of his empire, in a chauffeured minivan. 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. The landscape slid past, a jumbled time line of American suburban innovation: big-box districts, fuel megacenters, shopping malls, restaurants with the interior acreage of a factory. Patterson told me, “I used to say to my kids, ‘First of all, there’s no reason for you to go to Detroit. “That’s true,” his driver, a retired cop named Tim, muttered. Patterson just turned seventy-five. Still, he is best known for his big mouth. “I’m just readin’ the clouds, Brooks.”
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