Monday, October 24, 2016

The LGBT and Allies Vote in Oakland County

A longtime community member asked me a few weeks ago why I was running for sheriff in Oakland County.  There are several reasons, the most important of which is that voters ought to be able to have a choice in such an important office.  Conservative establishment Republicans have had a near stranglehold on this county for the past forty years, and while LGBT supportive Democrats have begun to win offices and were able to field strong candidates this year, they did not have anyone willing to stand up to Michael Bouchard. 
It was Sheriff Bouchard who ordered his Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) to raid Oakland County’s first Gay nightclub which opened back in the 1990’s, known as Cobalt.  Located in Ferndale, the club was very popular.  This was before Ferndale was able to cement its role as a stronghold for diversity and the LGBT community, and the Republican leadership of Brooks Patterson and Michael Bouchard did not like a big popular gay nightclub operating in their county.  I was in the club that night, and thirty officers and deputies in plainclothes and swat gear gear poured into Cobalt and forced everyone up against the wall with their hands up.  While nothing of note was found, the police later claimed the club was a hotbed of drugs and strippers.   They forced Cobalt to close permanently, and the club sits empty to this day on Woodward Avenue.  It was a huge embarrassment for the LGBT community and for Ferndale.
It was also Sheriff Bouchard who led his NET team to raid the first legal medical marijuana compassion clinic to open in Oakland County in 2009.  Ferndale residents had voted four times to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize all marijuana.  After the entire state voted to do the same eight years ago, the City of Ferndale spent a year researching the legal issues, developing zoning policies for clinics, going through the planning process, and developing  ordinances to open a  dispensary called Clinical Relief.  Within a few weeks of cutting the ribbon, the Sheriff came in with his swat team, snarling dogs and automatic weapons, throwing the business’ employees to the ground and handcuffing them all.  They shuttered Clinical Relief and the court cases are still languishing to this day.  This sheriff has spent huge resources fighting against patients with cancer, AIDS, and other disorders from accessing helpful medicine that he still regards as a schedule one narcotic.
When Bouchard spoke at a candlelight vigil for Orlando held in downtown Ferndale this year, he exhorted the largely gay crowd to “go out tomorrow and give blood,” being completely unaware that Gay men have been largely prohibited from donating blood for thirty years.      
LGBT voters and their allies should also vote in Oakland County to re-elect Clerk Lisa Brown.  Remember that her Republican predecessor Bill Bullard, along with Brooks Patterson and the Republican led County Commission, had led the fight against same sex marriage.  Brooks famously said during that struggle that if Gay people could get married, then he should be allowed to marry his dog.  But it was Lisa Brown who opened the Clerk’s office in Pontiac on a Saturday during that window period a few years back that allowed dozens of couples to marry before the Supreme Court finally ruled for marriage equality.

Another Republican power broker is running for Oakland County Treasurer against our longtime ally Andy Meisner.  Meisner has supported LGBT issues for two decades.
Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash is also being challenged by a Republican opponent who is a religious conservative with no interest in our lives.  Beyond Jim’s lifelong fight for the environment and his efforts to protect the regions lakes, rivers and streams, he has also attended Gay Pride Festivals every year.

Finally, LGBT voters should remember that it was the Republican establishment, under the leadership of Brooks and Bouchard, that redistricted and gerrymandered the Oakland County Commission in 2012 that led to the elimination of four Democratic seats. For a decade, the Commission had among its 25 members an openly Gay representative, first Dave Coulter, now Ferndale mayor, and then later by me.  Gay residents of Royal Oak, Hazel Park, Oak Park and all across the county lost their only representative member because of that underhanded move.
LGBT voters and their friends and allies ought to remember these actions taken over the past two decades and vote accordingly.  I hope they will remember their allies and vote for people like Vicki Barnett for County Executive, Andy Meisner for County Treasurer, Lisa Brown for Clerk, Jim Nash for Water Resources Commissioner, and Craig Covey for sheriff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Craig Covey D-Ferndale Files for Oakland County Sheriff Primary

For Immediate Release Tuesday April 19, 2016    More info:  Craig Covey 248.721.6434

Craig Covey to Run for Oakland County Sheriff

Popular Former Mayor and Commissioner will run as Democrat

“We Need a New Sheriff in Town!”

(Pontiac) Former Oakland County Commissioner Craig Covey, D-Ferndale, is announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Oakland County Sheriff.  He filed today at the Clerk’s office in Pontiac.  Covey was a Ferndale City Councilman for eight years, was elected mayor of Ferndale twice, and was elected to the Oakland County Commission in 2010 serving Hazel Park, Ferndale and parts of Royal Oak.  He lost that seat in 2012 after county and state Republicans redistricted the county, reduced the number of seats and gerrymandered districts in order to force out three Democrats.

He currently works for the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner as his Community Liaison. He worked for two decades with the Michigan Department of Community Health as an educator, and is currently the Board Chair of Ferndale Youth Assistance.

Said Covey today: “Oakland County needs a new sheriff.  We need someone who understands the changing realities on the ground in Oakland County, and the current desires and needs of the people who live, work and play here.  Republicans have held a stranglehold on this county for decades, and it is time for our evolving and diverse communities to disentangle themselves from the party of Snyder, Trump, Patterson and Cruz.  I may be David to his Goliath, but I’m going to give the people of Oakland County a choice in the race for sheriff.”

“We have an epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction along with rising deaths from heroin overdoses in our region.  Yet our county law enforcement community is locked in last century’s drug strategy.  Sheriff Bouchard continues to operate under a Nixonian “war on drugs” mentality developed in the 1970’s.  Instead of a strong focus on education and treatment around abuse of prescription drugs, our criminal justice system continues to prosecute and jail thousands for simple possession of marijuana costing taxpayers millions. The number one drug problem in Oakland County is the abuse of prescription pain killers which cause addiction and can lead to overdose and death.   There needs to be a call to arms for a major education campaign and a vast increase of programs for treatment and recovery,” said Covey.

“Our Sheriff could show leadership in the state by changing the focus of his huge resources to support a more robust fight against serious criminal activities that impact negatively the lives of residents such as auto theft and home invasions.  Instead he wastes resources on persecuting medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and similar generally law abiding residents,” Covey added. 

“Sheriff Bouchard spends vast sums fighting the losing war on marijuana prohibition.  He sends agents to hunt down and jail medical patients and their caregivers who use a plant that Michigan has deemed legal for such persons. In spite of numerous landslide elections where Oakland County residents overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize marijuana, our sheriff continues to use heavily armed narcotics agents, court officials, undercover agents, swat teams, dogs and helicopters to arrest grandmothers and caregivers who try to follow the law and are rewarded with arrest, anguish and prison”, said Covey.

Covey, 59, lives in Ferndale Michigan and has resided there for thirty years.  He was the first openly gay person elected by Michigan voters to a position of Mayor in 2007.  He has championed equal rights, diversity, and inclusion his entire career.  The past four years he has helped lead environmental efforts with the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner helping protect our streams, rivers, and lakes. 

An expert in community organizing, he has created and hosted events and fundraisers in the county that have raised more than $2 million for a host of local charities during the past two decades.

His positions on dozens of issues available at


Monday, April 18, 2016

We Need a New Sheriff in Town !

Reefer Madness
(Originally written and posted in November, 2010.  Six years later, Sheriff Bouchard is still fighting the nixonian war on marijuana, despite the wishes of the residents of Oakland County.  We need a new sheriff in town, still !)

After raids and mass arrests last month by Oakland County against medical marijuana facilities and homes, Sheriff Bouchard at his press conference reportedly quipped, “This is not a Cheech and Chong movie.” He was so right in that his actions were not representative of a light-hearted and fun comedy, although the raids were reminiscent of past decades. A better comparison might be the 1936 propaganda film “Reefer Madness”, with hysterical officials warning about the deadly menace of marijuana. As the dozens of court cases from these raids now wind through our county’s court systems, it is time for more rational, calm, and enlightened discussion about the issues related to marijuana in 2010.

Voters in Michigan overwhelmingly voted to decriminalize the use of marijuana for persons dealing with medical issues and who obtained recommendations from physicians. The same has happened in fourteen states across the nation. But opponents of the measure are unhappy with this turn of events, and now claim that the voters were somehow duped, which seems an arrogant stance. In a democracy, the voters get to be “the deciders.” It is not elected officials’ prerogative to decide what voters “meant” to do, but rather it’s their duty to follow their instructions. Elected officials can be disappointed with election results, but woe be to those who thwart the will of the people. It is from the voters that we get the authority that we have.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, more than 55,000 Michigan residents have applied for doctor-recommended medical marijuana permits. Each one has seen a physician, and sent into the state a check for $100 to process their request. And while the state cashes that check right away, there is a reported seven month wait to actually get the permit back from MDCH. Meanwhile the state has received more than five and one half million dollars under this program.

Ferndale residents voted three separate times to legalize medical marijuana. Our city council then determined areas that could be zoned for facilities where physicians and others could counsel, prescribe, and or dispense the product. For two months the sole facility in Ferndale functioned well, with no problems, no complaints, and according to our own police officials and records, there was no rise in criminal activity in the area.

Two days after the City of Ferndale voted in new zoning areas for medical marijuana, dozens of sheriff’s deputies and narcotics enforcement team officers swooped down on homes and businesses across the county, including our own little storefront in Ferndale. The raids featured masked officers in full swat team uniforms, snarling dogs, and drawn weapons. Elderly patients, nurses, and business owners alike were thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested. I suspect helicopters were buzzing overhead in case someone with severe arthritis or muscular dystrophy tried to make a run for it.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the raids was the confiscation of patient’s private medical records. Evidently ignoring the national rules on HIPPA which protects patient’s privacy, our own Sheriff in Oakland County has stated that he didn’t think marijuana was a proper medication for someone with back or shoulder pain. With all due respect, I would suggest that he leave the medical diagnoses and medication prescriptions to the doctors.

Certainly the state law now governing medical pot was not written well. It is unclear and causing consternation among local and county governments. But had state leaders done their job, we would not have had the citizen-led effort to force their hands. Now some law enforcement officials are using their assets to send their own political message that they don’t approve of the new law, and they are dealing with marijuana in the only ways they know how, which is to treat it as a dangerous narcotic no different than meth or heroin.

We have serious drug problems in our region, not the least of which are the growing number of addictions to legal pain-killers such as vicodin and oxycotin. But it is doubtful that fighting this epidemic will lead to sheriff’s raids on the local CVS.

In a time of dwindling government resources, law enforcement should focus on the serious criminal activities that put residents and visitors in true danger. They should focus on crimes such as burglary, auto theft, robberies, and other violent crimes as well as fighting serious drug problems associated with heroin, meth, cocaine, and other addictive narcotics. They can then send all the political messages they like, using the same tools that we all use such as lobbying, petitions, letter-writing and protests. But spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of precious tax-payer’s resources raiding legally organized medical marijuana facilities does not seem wise or prudent. Such over-the-top raids are reefer madness.

Craig Covey

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

How to Green your own Lawn and Garden and Save Money at the Same Time.

  1)       Plant Spruce trees, Pines, and other evergreens ten to fifteen feet north and northwest of your home to slow cold winds and preserve warmth in the winter.

2)      Plant larger deciduous trees to the south and southwest of your home in order to provide shade and cooler temperatures in the summer months.

3)      Planting fruit and nut trees can provide apples, cherries, pears, and other food for you and your family as well as for wildlife.  Many trees provide flowers and seeds that benefit bees and birds as well.

4)      Having less standard type lawn coverage can mean less mowing, less watering, less fertilizer and less weeding.  Ivies and other ground cover are more attractive and need far less maintenance.  

5)      Plant native species, which grow naturally in Michigan.  They will require less care, less water, and less fertilizer that exotic or foreign plants. 

6)      Be sure your downspouts and driveways drain into your yard and garden.  This rain is free water and not only nourishes your plantings, but lowers cost for your sewers and drainage.

7)      Resist using weed killers and lawn fertilizers.  Longer grass can help keep weeds in check and you can leave some weeds as naturally occurring or dig them by hand.  Leaving grass clippings and some leaves on the lawn will also nourish the grass.  Fertilizer can end up polluting our rivers and lakes, causing algae blooms and damaged water habitat.     

8)      Resist using pesticides, which can poison animals, pets, and beneficial insects.  Try using natural methods to control undesirable insects.  Not allowing open standing water or swampy areas can reduce mosquitoes.  Covering trash cans and picking up pet droppings will reduce flies and some bees.

9)        Keep leaves, grass clippings, and other organic waste on your property, using them as mulch or in a compost pile.  You can also add eggshells, coffee grounds, peelings,  and other  organic kitchen  waste in your garden or compost.  Do not include meat, fat, or animal waste in your composting.

10)  Do not automate watering or over water.  Let nature water your yard with rain and snow.  Let the natural drying out in August and  September occur and only water your garden sparingly in the mid-morning or early evening.

Plant some blackberry and raspberry bushes along with sides or back of your yard.  Then enjoy picking your own breakfast during berry season.

 Easy to grow annual and perennial plants in Michigan to provide food and fun around the seasons:

 Kale                             Asparagus

Cherries                      Apples

Pears                           Blackberries

Raspberries                 Mulberries

Spearmint                   Catnip

Hazelnuts                    Chives

Onions                         herbs

Tomatoes                    Potatoes


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ferndale Infrastructure and Flooding on May 5

On May 5 Ferndale voters will have three major tax proposals to decide and one of them is the renewal of a bond of 5.5 mills, first passed more than twenty years ago, which then was an infrastructure bond to fix streets, water mains, and sewers.  This time around, the city inexplicably left out any mention of sewers, water mains, and storm water infrastructure, and instead is asking the residents for the same amount of money, over a shorter period, for streets and parks.

My jaw dropped when I watched this proposal unfold at a City Council meeting this past winter, and I assumed I was hearing things wrong.  Why would the City need $45 million for local streets, when our roads are in much better condition than they were in 1994?  And why would this bond renewal not include funds to work on our aging sewers and water mains, and most of all, our desperate need for stormwater infrastructure?

I have not been able to see any specific studies on which roads they believe need replaced, although the mayor was quoted as saying all of our roads would be included.  That the city needs the exact same amount of money as in 1994, but without water and sewer work leads me to think they just decided to ask for all the money again, and will decide later how to spend.

That is not how previous Ferndale administrations asked for taxpayer money.  Under Mayor Goedert and Mayor Porter, proposals were developed first with specific needs and goals, and then priced out.  Citizen's blue ribbon committees were formed made up of community leaders, business owners, and other stakeholders to explain the proposal to the public. 

Ferndale homes have suffered repeated flooding in the past three years, including the giant rain event of last August 11th.  Our own City Hall has flooded twice since 2012.  The climate is changing and the Great Lakes Region is experiencing heavier, faster, and more frequent cloudbursts and historic rains.  Why would our city leaders not be paying attention to this looming threat?  If we spend the next fifteen years replacing roads but not installing green infrastructure, then the people of Ferndale can either give up using their basements or spend each summer cleaning up from combined sewage and stormwater overflows.

Ferndale voters always say yes to every tax proposal, and perhaps our elected officials are just taking for granted our progressive nature.  I have voted yes for every school levy and infrastructure bond.  I voted for the zoo tax and most others.  But Im voting no on this one.

It is not the end of the world if this bond issue fails.  A new revised request can be put on the ballot any November or May.   But we need to ask our city staff and Mayor and Council to get serious and stop with the sexy projects and superfluous pie in the sky developments and do what we need to fix and protect the city's infrastructure.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Why the Ferndale Blues Festival supports our Youth Assistance Programs

 It was a warm sunny morning as I drove over to the Kulick Community Center parking lot one Saturday to help send off a group of youth to summer camp.  These were disadvantaged kids from lower income households who would normally never get to go to camp because of financial constraints.  But as I pulled into the lot I was surprised at the crowds.    That summer in 2012 Ferndale Youth Assistance not only sent the most kids it had ever financed for camp before, but
we were sending the most of any school district in Oakland County !

The boys and girls seemed to be middle school age, though Im not an expert at guessing ages.  They all had family that had come to say goodbye and help them carry packs and other items for their trip.  They were boys and girls, of diverse races, but they all had excitement on their faces.  Two or three busses were warming up and it made me feel good.  I had always gone to scouting camps for many years as a tween and into my teen years, and they were important and fun and educational. 
The camp program run by FYA is just one of the ways that we support our local youth.  And it is one reason I have stayed on their board for fifteen years.
I don’t and won’t have any kids of my own but as a part of our “village” of Ferndale, it is to me a duty to give back to our youth, who will inherit this town when my generation moves on.



Thursday, December 04, 2014

Take Action to Protect our Great Lakes Environment

We treasure the spectacular beauty of our waterways and natural landscapes in Michigan and with one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, it is a truly unique area. But while our residents and visitors love the wonderful environment, it is something that must be guarded and protected.

We are under threat from climate change. We've seen toxic algae blooms, unprecedented flooding, and severe storms. Climate disruption is here and it’s affecting us now. It isn't a faraway concept affecting only our grandchildren. Regardless of political leanings, we must be smart and follow the science.  A great way to start is to move away from coal and toward more renewable energy sources. 

As our weather events become more intense, we will see more flash flooding.  Our own climatologists warn of harder, heavier rain storms.  This new type of torrential rain overwhelms our storm water and sewage systems, resulting in partially treated sewage overflowing into our rivers and streams, lowering the quality of our water. Toxic algae blooms become far worse.  Combined with fertilizer runoff from cities and farms, we then see crisis events such as the poisoning of drinking water in Toledo this past summer. The solution is to take action.

We need to dramatically reduce carbon pollution. The federal government already recognizes this priority. The Clean Power Plan, which sets statewide targets for reducing carbon emissions, will mandate that Michigan come up new ways to generate power. It is a good beginning but Michigan needs leadership and vision to make this happen..

We need to hold ourselves accountable and follow best practices.  Other states have taken the lead and are reducing emissions by creating higher requirements for renewable energy use. Michigan now lags behind a majority of states in this field. We also need to retire and retrofit dirty, aging coal plants.

Transitioning away from coal would easily help us fulfill our share of reducing emissions. We in Southeast Michigan live in a coal burning land. Nationwide, burning coal produces 37 % of electricity.   But our own DTE Energy still gets 75 percent of its electricity from coal. This is a tremendous burden on our climate.

Coal is so last century.  It is expensive, dirty, and holds our economy back. It must be dug up and transported, and then produces toxic smoke and ash. Coal is rust-belt technology.  Our electricity rates have also been trending upward because of our reliance on coal.

The City of Burlington, Vermont now uses 100% renewable energy.  Michigan should show leadership and move more quickly to cleaner energy.  Let’s retire our coal plants.  We can create new jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and all breathe easier.

 Co-written by Jim Nash and Craig Covey