A Democratic "State of the County".
State of the County: The Democratic County Commissioners’ Vision
When longtime Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson declared last week that he would not invite the Democratic members of the Oakland County Commission to the annual State of the County address for 2012, it became embarrassingly apparent to all that Mr. Patterson believes in one-party rule. He dismisses the beliefs and participation of those not in lock-step with his agenda. He believes that Oakland County belongs to him. He would exclude representation of upwards of half a million Oakland County residents served by ten of our Commission’s elected officials. To reject the participation of representatives of dozens of cities, villages, and townships across the county is extremely arrogant. It is unacceptable, undemocratic, and in direct opposition to the way our great nation is to be governed.
This is why we are presenting our own “State of the County” report.
Americans have watched political deadlock and extreme partisanship damage their country’s ability to govern itself. Respect and approval of Congress and our own Michigan legislature has plummeted as elected leaders fail to work together and compromise for the good of our society. To the utter dismay of our own residents in Oakland County, we see some Republican Commissioners and our own county executive bring that partisan gridlock home. The recent power-grab by Republicans in Lansing and Pontiac to redraw commission district lines, along with forty years of one party rule in Oakland is leading many to question whether our county is being run as a true representative democracy. Now the county executive has refused to invite Democrats to the State of the County address. Many question this type of “imperial” thinking. Too much power, in too few hands, for too long, corrupts.
The scheme to reduce the size of the County Commission and allow current Republicans to redraw their own districts was purported to save money, but more savings could have been realized by the County Executive eliminating one or two of his multitude of Deputy Executives.
Democrats have strived for decades to promote and support public transportation and mass transit for our county and our region. Due in part to intransigence from the current county administration, multiple attempts at progress for public and mass transportation have been stymied.
Democrats have advocated for “fix it first” policies to repair roads, bridges, and infrastructure in our established communities. Instead, Republicans have encouraged further and further sprawl into the farmlands and woodlands of our county. This has resulted in empty strip malls, hollowed out cities, crumbling roads, expensive repairs, higher transportation costs, gridlock, and an unsustainable future.
In the last six months the Republican majority has refused to allow resolutions authored by Democratic Commissioners to come before the commission for consideration and debate. This prevents discussion of these issues that are important to residents in these and all districts in Oakland County.
Commissioner Covey introduced a resolution for a moratorium on fracking, the dangerous and unregulated practice of injecting unidentified chemicals deep into the earth to release natural gas, but it has gone unheard. Our precious water resources in Oakland County may be at risk.
Commissioner Gershenson introduced a resolution to cut the funding for our Board lobbyist, because they have not produced the savings/funding they had promised, but it has not been allowed in committee. This results in wasted taxpayer dollars and county resources.
Commissioner Nash introduced a resolution to oppose state reforms to Auto No-Fault insurance, that would cost traumatic accident victims needed care and eliminate thousands of medical jobs and businesses across the state. He also introduced a resolution to create the Veterans’ Services Advisory Council of Oakland County, to allow veterans from across the county a voice in county veteran programs, create a vet services web portal and educate the public about veteran benefits. Both of these issues have not been given discussion or debate by Republican committee chairs.
Democrats would like to increase efforts to support independent businesses that start and expand in local communities with a microloan program. Our county spends $100 million annually, and we would support an Adopt/ Buy Oakland First Purchasing Policy that would support local businesses and employers and employees. We would launch an Oakland County Retail Incubator Pilot Program to partner with the Main Street Program.
We would support more development and entrepreneurship training programs and expand programs and policies known to attract and keep millenials and college graduates in our county. We call on the County Executive to appoint young persons to the Oakland County Workforce Deveopment Board to ensure the priorties of our newer workers are part of the job training decision process. We would partner with Oakland Schools to increase access to entrepreneur training in local school districts.
We would promote financial literacy and asset building in our local communities. We would advocate for financial literacy as a core curriculum requirement in area school districts, working with Oakland ISD to ensure model financial literacy curriculum is available to area schools. We would develop a model policy to restrict expansion of pay day lending facilities for local communities to adopt. We would work toward launching a county campaign to promote education and opportunity through our local community banks and credit unions to reach out to the “unbanked” in our county.
Our county could do more to help families stay in their homes, and help prevent foreclosure. We can hire more housing counselors and partner with community based organizations to help provide opportunities for eligible residents across the county to refinance their homes.
Agriculture is the second largest industry in Michigan, and Democrats would encourage the creation of an Oakland County Food Policy Council to promote local growers, Michigan farms and companies, and study and explore policy opportunities to grow this sector. We should add this industry to the current county emerging sector program. Such programs could not only support local and family farming, distribution, and food production, but would enhance the ability of our residents for fresher, local products.
As Oakland County continues to grow and evolve, Democrats appreciate, embody, embrace the diversity and the strength that diversity provides Oakland County. We understand and value everyone and all of the hard-working residents who strive to make this region their home. We appreciate the true face of Oakland County and America, which includes people of varied ethnic backgrounds, racial groups, religious and cultural groups, sexual orientations, and economic status. The County Executive and his party seem to fear this diversity and want to cling to a society that is decades gone, and perhaps wish to hold on to an enclave for the 1%. Oakland County is now a “purple” county, neither red nor blue. It contains Republicans and Democrats, Libertarians and liberals, Tea Party activists and Occupy Wall Street sympathizers.
But rather than celebrate this diversity and appreciate the strength that the conversation of ideas could bring, Mr. Patterson and his party scheme to engineer gerrymandered election districts so they never need to share power.
We believe that everyone deserves a seat at the table. This is not an oligarchy or fiefdom. We are public servants, serving at the pleasure of the people of Oakland County.