Patterson: Oakland County drives the Michigan economy

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published February 12, 2019

 L. Brooks Patterson

L. Brooks Patterson


OAKLAND COUNTY — Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson touted the robust Oakland County economy and slammed “factions” in government that he said tear at the fabric of government during his 2019 State of the County address Feb. 7.

Patterson delivered his 45-minute speech to an invitation-only crowd of about 600 at the newly refurbished $45 million, 610,000-square-foot United Shore Financial Services in Pontiac.

Attendees included Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.

“Oakland County drives the Michigan economy,” Patterson began. “Where else would you want to be?”

Kristin Rohrbeck, the director of OUCARES, an Oakland University program that serves people impacted by autism spectrum disorder, was selected as the winner of Patterson’s Elite 40 Under 40 Class of 2019.

Before she introduced Patterson, Rohrbeck noted that the unemployment rate for adults with autism is 75 to 85 percent, and she said that those with autism possess “astonishing ability to work,” with extra help.

Among the items Patterson highlighted were financial investments, including $5 billion in health care, information technology, robotics and advanced manufacturing since 2004; $3.24 billion in “traditional businesses” since 2004; and $830 million in Oakland County downtowns, creating about 7,900 new jobs.

Patterson noted that Oakland County Deputy Executive Robert Daddow and Management and Budget Director Laurie Van Pelt have said they are beginning to “see signs the economy is softening.”

“I can, however, give you two assurances tonight: One, we have successfully diversified Oakland County’s economy with an eye toward reducing the effects of any downcycle; two, my administration is already working to determine the effects a downcycle will have on the county budget five years down the road so we can take necessary mitigative action now,” he said.

“By 2020, our workforce will exceed 772,000. Three-quarters of those added jobs will be in the middle- or high-wage category,” he added.

“Blight will be eliminated in the city of Pontiac by the end of 2019,” Patterson said, noting that 960 homes will be or have been condemned and demolished.

He highlighted the county’s efforts to bolster high school students’ interest in high-tech and skilled trades opportunities through MICareerQuest Southeast, which drew 8,000 students from six counties and 800 exhibitors to the Suburban Collection Showplace Nov. 28, 2018.

Patterson praised the Oakland County Health Division for its response to an outbreak of hepatitis A, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared Oakland County no longer to be an outbreak county.

He said the division continues to monitor the mitigation of industrial contaminants discovered in Kent Lake and the Huron River, and he noted that they have received the Project Public Health Ready award from the National Association of County and City Health Officials.


Quick hits
In what he described as his “quick hits,” Patterson said that:

• According to the National Council for Home Safety and Security, 16 of the 20 safest cities in Michigan are in Oakland County.

• His administration will recommend a millage reduction in property taxes for 2020 from 4.04 mills to 4 mills.

• Oakland County has retained its AAA bond rating for 21 straight years.

He did not address mass transit in his speech, other than to say that Oakland County voters “pay the lion’s share of regional taxes,” including for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation millage.

“I need to address the misperception that somehow Oakland County does not support our region.

“The Oakland County Business Finance Corporation was formed to help businesses both inside and outside of our county borders. Since 2004, we have helped at least 99 companies outside of Oakland County with business financing, which has resulted in $136 million in total project financing.

“I’m labeled as an obstructionist because I always hold out for the best management model that protects my taxpayers,” he said. “I did the same for the legislation that created the Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority.

“Have you seen Cobo Center lately? It’s beautiful and among the best convention facilities in the United States. The overhaul came in on time and under budget, all under the management model yours truly insisted upon.”

Patterson delivered his conclusion with an eye toward history.

“I think (President James) Madison put us on notice over 231 years ago that if factions were to move into the majority, they could undermine the republic.

“Factions are in government today, and they tear at the very fabric of our republican form of government. They are destructive. They are immoral. … They’ve become more vitriolic, threatening the worst of mob rule, and ultimately could destroy the republic that our forefathers dared to launch. I see on TV the vitriol at every public gathering, the disruption, the violence, the outward resistance to authority, and a complicit media that for some unstated reason hates their president and endangers their country.”

He specifically noted “abusive treatment of (U.S. Supreme Court) Justice Brett Kavanaugh and decried New York state’s Reproductive Health Act, which allows late-term abortions.


Democratic response
In the Democratic response, webcast on social media following Patterson’s address, Oakland County Commissioner Dave Woodward, D-Royal Oak, said that in the last month, the Board of Commissioners has reorganized to “better align to advance a policy agenda that fixes our roads, protects our water and breaks down walls to regional cooperation. When we succeed, Oakland County will be a more welcoming place, a stronger place, and a more resilient place to live, work and play.

“Our Democratic majority is committed to making sure the people appointed to serve on various boards and commissions represent the diversity of our county, look like our county and bring a greater variety of perspectives to decision-making.

“Our board will actively seek out and recruit from a diverse pool of talented applicants,” Woodward said. “Greater diversity, more voices at the tables that govern Oakland County, will result in fresh perspectives, and ultimately, better decision-making.

“Never in Oakland County’s history has there been shared political power in the governing structure. Many are asking, ‘How is this going to work?’ The board is prepared to bring new ideas to the table.

“Corporations are making record profits, and yet, too many residents are struggling to make it to the middle class, let alone stay in the middle class,” Woodward said.

“We need an economic development that focuses on workers; that focuses on people; and focuses on our cities, townships and villages. The prosperity of Oakland County must reach all the way down to those on the front lines of the economy.

“We are committed to raising the wages of all workers. That is the foundation that strong economic development strategy must be built,” he said.

He said the board will work to raise wages for skilled trades workers and to grow the trades, will work with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to secure funding to fix roads, and will propose the creation of an Oakland County Water Quality Board to work with the county Water Resources Commission on water quality issues.

Woodward addressed public transit, saying he will appoint a committee to develop a plan that improves transit in Oakland County and the region. He added that the board will invest in rental assistance for the first time to help provide affordable housing and to offer support for the 2020 Census.

“Last-century thinking is not going to solve this-century problems,” Woodward said. “But new ideas can.”