Patterson sums up Oakland County: 'Great place to work, live and play'
Pontiac — Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson delivered his annual county address Thursday night in his familiar and unflappable fashion.
Patterson, who turned 80 last month and is serving an unprecedented seventh term as the county’s top elected officer, wasted no time in dispelling rumors that he was stepping down from the job.
""Contrary to some media reports, I have not resigned my office and if the stock market doesn't improve, I may be here for the next six years," cracked Patterson to applause from the audience, many of them standing.
Patterson joked about taking bows for the county’s success but heaped praised on appointees and county workers for carrying out programs. He tossed out statistics and financial data that underscore the county’s accomplishments.
“If you want to be where innovation is, Oakland County is where you want to be,” said Patterson for his 2019 State of the County address at the United Shore Financial headquarters in Pontiac. “... Oakland County drives Michigan’s economy. Where else would you want to be?”
L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive, gives his 2019 State of the County address in Pontiac on February 7, 2019. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News
There weregood-nature jibes to his counterpart in Macomb County, County Executive Mark Hackel and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, among 700 invited guests for the address. Patterson's remarks were frequently greeted with applause by the crowd.
Patterson bragged about Oakland County’s economy, if not creating an economic Eden, in his view, then pretty close. He rattled off how, since 2004, his Emerging Sectors program has resulted in $5 billion in investment, the creation of 18,318 new jobs and retention of 21,710 jobs. He said 1,821 patents had been filed in the county, placing it in 2015 “ninth out of 3,100 counties nationwide.”
He ticked off 2017 statistics, which showed the county surpassed numbers of entire states: Oakland County companies paid their workers $45 billion, better than the total wages in 16 states. It has more than 728,000 jobs, better than 13 states. Exports, he said, of $14.4 billion, were more than 25 states.
Other accomplishments: blight removal. “By the end of this year blight will be eliminated in Pontiac,” Patterson said.
The county seat, which recently emerged from bankruptcy and selling off of many of its assets, had 960 blighted homes identified in 2012. Patterson said through $7.5 million in federal funds and the efforts of the county, state, city, and Bill Pulte’s Blight Authority, the remaining dozen would be gone by the end of 2019.
Other reasons to live in Oakland County, he said:
•16 of the 20 safest cities in Michigan are in Oakland County
•His administration will recommend reducing tax from 4.04 mills to 4.0 mills in fiscal year 2020
•The county will celebrate its 200th birthday next year
•A $50 million “Asian Village” on Grand River in Novi will feature restaurant, lodging and a 25,000-square foot marketplace
•A $100 million 67-acre downtown district will open in Commerce Township at Pontiac Trail and M-5
•A program is underway to recognize “Communities for a Lifetime,” municipalities with “aging-friendly” communities
Patterson pointed out how Oakland County has been a strong regional partner to area counties "paying more than its fair share of taxes" to support Cobo Center, which he praised as "one of the best of its kind in the nation," the Detroit Iinstitute of Arts, and the Detroit Zoo.
While most of those in attendance enthusiastically applauded and whistled after Patterson's recitation of county accomplishments, not all were impressed.
"The county board’s priorities are fixing our roads, protecting our drinking water, and building an Oakland economy that works for everyone and not just a few," said Oakland County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Woodward, D-Royal Oak. "I would have liked to hear more how he was going to join the county board in leading progress for all— instead of his Trump-like rant he concluded on. We remain ready and willing to work together make progress on these issues."