Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit on March 27, 2010. The event was a rally to demand justice in the assassination of Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah by the FBI on Oct. 28, 2009., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
January 2, 2013
Napoleon takes verbal swipe at Duggan: ‘It’s our Detroit’
Potential mayoral candidate speaks at historical event
Detroit — If Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon runs for Detroit mayor, he says he'll campaign as a Detroiter who has lived through the city's struggles, an acknowledged shot at the potential candidacy of former Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan.
In brief remarks Tuesday at a service honoring the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Napoleon called 2013 a pivotal year for the city, and said whoever leads it should be familiar with its decades of pain.
"It's our Detroit, and we're going to keep it for Detroiters," Napoleon said from the pulpit of New Bethel Baptist Church.
Afterward, Napoleon said he has lived next to abandoned homes, dealt with high car insurance rates and felt the fear both for himself and his mother stemming from the city's high crime rate. And Duggan, he said, has not.
"He's never had to experience those things," Napoleon said. "He (Duggan) cannot say he has the common experiences that Detroiters have."
Duggan, the former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center, moved from Livonia to the city's Palmer Woods neighborhood earlier this year and is considering a mayoral bid. He has pointed out he was born and raised on Detroit's west side. He could not be reached for comment.
But Napoleon scoffed at whether Duggan's current neighborhood off Woodward, where estate-size homes were once the province of auto executives and Detroit's social elite, could give him the same perspective as the average Detroiter.
"Hell, no," he said. "Palmer Woods is not Detroit."
Mayor Dave Bing has not said whether he'll run for re-election. Others, however, have announced bids, including state Rep. Lisa Howze, D-Detroit, and state Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit.
Napoleon spoke during a two-hour service that included calls to repeal the state's recent move to become a right-to-work state. Speakers called right to work an extension of the mentality that allowed slavery to be legal in America until the 13th Amendment was passed in 1865.
Abayomi Azikiwe, a member of the local Moratorium Now Coalition working to fight foreclosures, evictions and utility shut-offs, called upon organized labor to rally and hold a general work stoppage in protest of the new law.
He said the attack on labor, coming after the economic woes of the Great Recession, follows the exportation of jobs and capital to other markets and the loss of homes following the mortgage meltdown.
"This society is in deep crisis," he said before about 50 people. "They are coming to us and asking us to pay for the crisis we didn't create."
Napoleon, too, condemned the passage of right to work, saying his family has deep roots in the UAW. He was a spokesman for the failed Proposal 2, which sought to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution. The failure of Proposal 2 is blamed in part for the push of right-to-work legislation in the lame-duck session of the state Legislature.
But his focus was on his likely mayoral run and what the 2013 election will mean for the city.
"This is where we make our stand. This is a defining moment for Detroit," he said. "I'm going to run (on the belief) that Detroiters can reimagine Detroit for Detroiters."