Letter: Patterson’s record supports regional transit

Bankole Thompson (“Patterson should finally board progress train,” Feb. 12) has joined the overtly false refrain that Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is blocking a solution to regional transit. Thompson outright ignores substantial facts which prove otherwise.

Patterson put a regional transit plan on the table which, if voters approve, would, from Oakland County voters alone, provide $1.2 billion over 20 years toward regional transit. That substantial sum will come from Oakland communities that have consistently voted to opt-in to fund public transit.

Over the past 21 years, Oakland taxpayers have already paid more than any of the Wayne or Macomb SMART bus communities — $352 million. That’s $37 million more than Macomb County and $107 million more than Wayne County. Detroit pays nothing, yet still receives services from SMART.

Wayne-Washtenaw-Detroit want to tax everyone for regional transit. That’s the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) approach that lost just 14 months ago. Patterson’s plan acknowledges this reality. Though Oakland Co. voters county-wide narrowly defeated the RTA ballot question in 2016, a precinct-level map of the voting tells a more complete story. Most of the “yes” votes for the RTA were concentrated in southeast Oakland County, which coincides with the location of the SMART opt-in communities. The ballot measure was handily defeated in the 38 opt-out communities and in one major opt-in community — Troy. By focusing on the communities that voted in 2016 to tax themselves for RTA transit, and those that have voted for the last 21 years to support services provided by SMART, Patterson’s proposal increases the likelihood of an RTA ballot question passing next time around while honoring the vote of those who were opposed.

Let’s not ignore Patterson’s record on moving regional transit forward. He supported the creation of Act 196 Authority to raise funds to support SMART services. He worked to get the Oakland County Public Transportation Authority millage on the ballot in 1996 and has supported every millage renewal since.

Patterson backed the creation of the Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority (DARTA) in 2001 that was vetoed by Gov. John Engler. He then joined the regional leaders in an attempt to revive DARTA. The transit unions stopped it with a lawsuit. Gov. Jennifer Granholm reneged on a promise to fix it. Then, Patterson helped form the Regional Transit Authority ultimately enabling an RTA ballot question in 2016. Voters said “No.”

Now he has presented a plan that offers $1.2 billion from Oakland County’s opt-in communities. Is this the record of a man standing in the way of regional transit? Absolutely not.

Thompson wrote in a second column this week that “Patterson decided he would allow well-to-do cities in his county to opt out of any new taxes for a regional transportation system.” Patterson didn’t “allow” anything. Thirty-nine Oakland County communities have consistently voted over 21 years to opt out of regional transit. Thompson needs to avoid the cheap shots and get his facts straight.

William Mullan

media and communications officer

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson