Opinion | Oakland County isn’t racist or uncooperative for protecting taxpayers

Bill Mullan is media and communications officer of Oakland County

Bridge Magazine asked Oakland County to respond to assertions that its decision not to support a vote on a regional tax for metro Detroit mass transit is evidence of declining regional cooperation. Here is the response from county spokesman Bill Mullan.

Good relations with our neighbors across 8 Mile Road do not guarantee regional cooperation just as challenging relations do not preclude it.

What guarantees regional cooperation is legislation that ensures protection for all taxpayers in Southeast Michigan, accountability for all municipalities involved that ensures each is treated fairly, and transparency to guarantee taxpayer funds are used responsibly and according to statute. This is what Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has proposed for regional transit. In fact, it is his record on all regional issues.

Patterson applied these principles when negotiating and ultimately creating the Regional Convention Facility (Cobo) Authority, the Act 196 authority supporting the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, the Great Lakes Water Authority, and even the Detroit Institute of Arts and Detroit Zoo authorities.

RELATED: It’s Detroit vs. everybody again, thanks to transit tax and city comeback.

He held out –  sometimes for years –  to ensure protection for all taxpayers, accountability of all governments, and transparency on how the tax dollars are spent. Look at how well these other regional entities are functioning under this model.

In each instance of forming these regional entities, holding out for good governance and taxpayer protection were treated by the media and activists as an "us versus them" situation. Some even cried “racism.” These are the words of the ignorant and morally defunct. These are the words of those who have already lost the argument because they are unable to deny the facts that are on our side. Ad hominem argument is the last resort of those who are on the wrong side of right versus wrong.

One question: If relations are so poor among the regional leaders, then why do transit discussions continue?

The premise that jobs are fleeing the suburbs to downtown just isn’t true. Has the (Quicken Loans founder Dan) Gilbert cartel squeezed some suburban companies to come downtown? Absolutely. Have some companies gone downtown on their own because they want to help revive the city? Of course. But those are only jobs from the suburbs with no net-gain for the region, which defies the definition of regionalism.

Where are all the companies from outside of Michigan landing? Many in Oakland County. Just in the past four years, Oakland County has brought in well over $1 billion from foreign-owned firms. We are attracting companies from Silicon Valley. Oakland County produces or retains about 30 percent of the new jobs in Michigan each year. A recent University of Michigan ranking of 109 counties across the country for overall economic prosperity ranked Oakland County 19th and Wayne County 103rd. Not even close. Not even competitive.

Why do companies outside of Michigan choose Oakland County? Many reasons, but some include good schools; safe neighborhoods; a quality of life that is second-to-none; 32 distinct downtowns that provide dining, shopping and entertainment; a stable and well-managed county government that is AAA bond-rated and has a national reputation for excellence.

And, of course, they want to be with the thousands of other companies that are part of the diverse, knowledge-based economy here.

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Harold Leese
Tue, 07/17/2018 - 8:56am

Please vote NO this August 7, 2018 to defeat the SMART property tax

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 7:36pm

Please move out of this state so we can fix it.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 07/17/2018 - 10:58am

It's good to read that Mr. Mullen didn't take the bait that Detroit's race-hustlers were using in order to cajole them into throw good money after bad.

Instead of focusing on the real cause of the region's problems, it's regrettable to see that they still trot out the same old tired boogeyman in a feeble and pathetic attempt to make suburban leaders somehow feel personally guilty and open up their respective public purses.

And if Detroit, and by extension Wayne County, are still confused as to why people in Macomb & Oakland Counties are sick and tired of bailing them out (for the umpteenth time), one need to go no further than to take a leisurely drive up Van Dyke, Gratiot, Woodward, Dequindre, Michigan, Mound or Jefferson.

Here's a hint: The condition of Detroit and its residents are the results of the abysmal leadership of Detroit (and Wayne County) going back at least half a century.

One need to look no further than today's paper to see yet another example of Detroit's "leadership" seeking to enrich themselves at the expense of the people they purportedly serve.


john chastain
Wed, 07/18/2018 - 12:04pm

One should be careful with the term “race hustlers”. L Brooks Patterson built his political career on race hustling and that approach is alive and well within his administration. Patterson like Trump is an old racist constantly dogged by personal history and still mining systemic racism for political advantage. Oakland county may be outgrowing its segregationist roots, Patterson never will.

Kevin Grand
Wed, 07/18/2018 - 12:49pm


John Chastain
Wed, 07/18/2018 - 3:07pm

“I made a prediction a long time ago, and it’s come to pass. I said, ‘What we’re going to do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.” L Brooks Patterson. Patterson has used racism as his stock-in-trade since the very beginning of his career when he represented the anti-busing forces in Oakland County whose opposition of school busing relied heavily on racist rhetoric, themes, and actions to block the integration of schools, with protests (including the burning of ten--fortunately empty--school buses) peaking in 1971; Patterson rode that notoriety to election the first time as Oakland County Prosecutor in 1972. He's been using that opportunistic racism as a career enhancer ever since. His opposition to regional cooperation and grandstanding interactions with Detroit leaders is well documented including his long time feud with former black mayor Coleman Young who he continued to use as a foil long after Young had died. Like Trump's use of Obama Patterson needed a prominent black leader to put himself in opposition too in order to stir up people who want those uppity types kept in their place. There are many more examples but I'm sure you get the drift. The problem is that doesn't make Patterson always wrong or his opponents always right but context matters and in the case of L Brooks Patterson's history and the apologists for it, well they don't get to sweep it all under the rug like it didn't happen.

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 11:53am

I truly hope the bill does not pass, besides getting nickle and dimed to death on special millages, the zoo, DIA, which should be funded by their admission fees. How many more Q-Lines do we need, I cannot see how another Detroit tourist attraction will benefit anyone in any of the counties.

John Chastain
Wed, 07/18/2018 - 3:29pm

Hey Todd, the Detroit Zoo is located in Macomb Counties City of Royal Oak ya know. The Detroit Zoo contributes more than $100 million annually to the regional economy. It is the single largest paid family attraction in Michigan, with annual attendance of more than 1 million visitors since 2006. Visitors come from every county in the state, every state in the country and more than 40 countries. So tell me Todd do you see how one "Detroit tourist attraction" benefits any county including of course Macomb. Regional support for so called tourist attractions figure into every quality of life survey there is, they play a role in business and population growth which impacts jobs, wages, housing market values and provides benefits that affect many who do not directly profit from them. You look at regional area's around the world that are thriving and growing and public spaces, parks, attractions and cultural institutions play a role in the success of every one. That's the benefits you apparently aren't seeing. Fortunately many of the rest of us have better vision.

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 12:01am

Royal Oak is in Oakland County - kind of a bad way to approach the discussion by immediately showing a lack of basic geographic knowledge. I'm a fan of the Zoo and fully support its presence on my annual tax bill via a millage. It and the DIA are two excellent examples of where the region as a whole are supporting true assets.

The RTA? Not even close to minute shred of value in it and should never see a ballot.

john chastain
Thu, 07/19/2018 - 8:54am

Well I’m truly chastised for putting Royal Oak in the wrong county. I stand by the rest of the comment which was in response to the basic premise that nothing with the name Detroit attached & assumed to be in Detroit was worthless to anyone in the surrounding counties. The argument about the RTA’s value is valid but I can’t help but note your support for regional assets doesn’t extend beyond cultural ones. There is a long standing need for regional transportation services that is still unfulfilled. Not everyone can afford cars yet need transportation to jobs, schools et:al. Regional communities thrive when local populations aren’t segregated into areas of wealth and poverty. Transportation plays a large part of discouraging economic inequality within regional areas. Is the RTA the answer, I don’t know, but claiming that it doesn’t belong on the ballot isn’t something that can I support. That is one of the same arguments used by people who opposed the mileage’s for both the zoo and the DIA. Democracy is a great thing until it produces results we don’t like, then not so much.

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 12:50pm

"171,501 Oakland County residents left the county for work, with 103,186 commuting to Wayne County – nearly the same number of workers who leave Wayne County for Oakland." This data is from the last census. Crain's did a summary report about commuter patterns here: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130305/NEWS/130309945/number-of-c...

The economy is regionally interdependent. No one county is sucking another dry, but rather workers commute between counties in almost equal measure. As one of those 100,00 folks, I'd be thrilled to commute without a damn car. Congestion and construction are a nightmare, sucking away hours of my life a week that I could spend reading, resting, or preparing for work. It's time to put opinions aside and focus on the economic facts.

john chastain
Thu, 07/19/2018 - 9:01am

Meg, in arguments about race and economic inequality facts rarely matter. The debate about regional transportation is mired in the same us vs them mindset that has defined the Detroit metro area my entire life. Despite attempts to distract and sweep history under the rug racism and poverty continue to inform these arguments including the ones over public transportation.

Liz Loria
Mon, 08/13/2018 - 2:07pm

John, It is very heartening to read your informed and concerned comments about regionalism and Detroit. You are
right on about the systemic racism that, by and large, has caused the poverty that Detroit suffers. A smart regional approach that is
ever so slowly beginning will go a long way to begin the process of and healing. The Us vs Them mentality has been around my
entire life as well: 70 years. Time to wake up and see our likenesses more than differences. Thanks for your sharing.

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 2:18pm

The new FAST bus system proves that there is demand for regional transit between Wayne and Oakland Counties. Please don't make tell us we don't need the RTA - let us vote for it.

As Kurt Metzger has pointed out, Oakland County will have more residents over the age of 65 than under the age 18. “We must be able to attract a young, educated workforce and our far-flung suburban job centers are not the answer." For Oakland County though, the future strength of the local economy might not be through isolation but rather integration with its Wayne County neighbors.

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 12:04am

Simply then if Buses are the way to go - ditch the rail line from Detroit to Ann Arbor.

The reality is this - that rail line will be used to slash the throat of Oakland and Macomb counties. And the fun part is once it is funded the immediate and current ownership of land nearby won't even face tax increases to the amount of benefit received. But Oakland and Macomb? They'll be stuck with the bill for decades to kill their own economic prospects.

Because local buses - which is 95% of what Oakland/Macomb get out of this - fails when moving people over large distances requiring speed. And this plan - cheaps out with absolutely malice towards those areas. It is a cheap plan for the northern areas only designed as a throwaway to secure actual methodologies that can be used to slash the throat of the areas paying for it.

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 2:33pm

The issue seems to be whether the region is interdependent or whether it's every county for itself. Do we all rise and fall together? Or does Oakland County prosper in spite of (or maybe because) Wayne County is challenged? Oakland County might want to reconsider their "independence".

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 3:45pm

As I recall Mrs Irene McCabe Of Oakland County Had a anti school busing group called NAG. Then Mr. Patterson, an attorney offered his services to the anti busing people. He became their legal counsel, cheerleader and publicist. The group eventually fizzled out and Mr Patterson used it as a stepping stone to his long and controversial political career.