Editorial: Make regional cooperation work
Gary Brown, Detroit's group executive for operations, has called for more regional cooperation. He points to past successes such as the Detroit Zoo and Detroit Institute of Art millages and says future joint ventures can move the city and the suburbs forward.
Brown, the former city council member, stresses he's not advocating for a regional government, but rather proposes working together on individual projects.
"Generally, in regard to specific problems, the regional approach to solving them makes sense." Brown says. "It's a win-win for everybody."
He's right. But the key to making it happen is continued and increased efforts that see both sides pursue the goal honestly and openly.
One area that Brown sees as needing immediate attention is transportation. He says Metro Detroit needs a regional transit system that has a regional funding source.
But, since that doesn't seem to be in the picture anytime soon, Brown says he favors working out better coordination of services between the Detroit Department of Transportation and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation bus systems.
While Detroit at one time opted out of the regional SMART system, Brown says he'd like to see DDOT and SMART officials work together to make the systems more compatible. This could include sharing routes and devising a new payment method that riders could use on either system. He says conversations are underway on these topics.
Transportation is one issue that over the years has been divisive. But that can change. A truly regional transit system is years away but more cooperation between SMART and DDOT buses need not be.
Suburban officials say they are open to Brown's suggestion and note they've always supported regional cooperation.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel stresses, though, he'd like to see more effort from Detroit.
"(Macomb County) is always willing to reach out to the city of Detroit," Hackel says. "But you don't often hear Detroit reaching out to the suburbs."
He adds that for Metro Detroit to be successful economically, both the suburbs and the city need to prosper.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson expresses similar views, pointing with pride to what his county has done, from supporting the Cobo Center authority and expansion of the facility to establishing Automation Alley in the metro area.
As Patterson says "if it's good for city and suburbs, I'm for it; if it's good for city and neutral for suburbs, I'm for it; (but) if it's bad for the suburbs, I'm against it."
Common sense dictates that cooperation between the suburbs and Detroit is good for the region.
And, when the universal benefits are clear, it has been supported by residents.
Brown is taking on the role of fostering more project-based regional cooperation. If he succeeds, both the city and suburbs will be stronger.