Friday, January 24, 2014

In defense of Brooks Patterson

So we can’t read the controversial piece in The New Yorker about Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson unless we pay for it.

Folks, it isn’t worth it.

We don’t need to know what Patterson said in the article  entitled “Drop Dead, Detroit” because we have his 45-year record in public service, which speaks for itself.

It’s all out there for anyone to see, and we can judge for ourselves.

If  we live in Oakland County, we know it’s a great record. The county is one of the most solvent places in the country thanks to the governance of Patterson and his team — not to mention the Oakland County commissioners down through the years.

Does Oakland County owe its success in large part to Detroit? Duh. Detroit was only home to the auto industry and executives chose to live in Oakland County by the thousands.

Oakland was once one of  the five wealthiest counties in the country and it is because of Detroit.

Detroit is also the city that is a national embarrassment to Michigan. It is bankrupt. It was home to one the most corrupt mayors in the country’s history, Kwame Kilpatrick, yet Detroiters elected him twice.

The city has been in decline for decades, with its residents fleeing to places like Oakland and Macomb counties.  City officials have been warned for eons that financial disaster loomed. Yet what did they — or the citizens who elected them — do about it?

Is it in the region’s interests for Detroit  to recover? Is the Grand Canyon deep? A rising tide lifts all boats.

Do places like Oakland and Macomb counties need protection from Detroit? You bet. Just consider the possibility of rising costs of Detroit water and sewer services,  upon which Southeastern Michigan suburbia depends. Our rates could skyrocket due to a bankruptcy we didn’t create.

When, for years, Detroit wanted to improve Cobo Hall, did Patterson object? Only to the extent he wanted a fair shake for his constituents. He did his job, and he did it admirably.

Just look at how he is trying to protect the artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts, on which his constituents depend — and partially underwrite — for cultural enrichment.  

Patterson also knows that the county’s bond rating will not be helped in the long run by Detroit’s problems.

But would he rather have the Red Wings in Oakland County than Detroit? Is he happy the Pistons are in Auburn Hills?

Would he prefer that businesses locate in Oakland County instead of Detroit?

Would he rather people dine out in Oakland County than Detroit?

These are hard realities — facts, not even opinions. Patterson knows, and has demonstrated, that Southeastern Michigan’s fate is heavily influenced by Detroit and always will be. He has lived this and breathed this forever.

Patterson has a record he and his constituents can be proud of. Oakland would be wealthier today if Detroit was solvent.

But it isn’t. Detroit is more dead than alive.

Don’t blame Brooks Patterson for that.

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