Oakland County

The candidates for Oakland County Commissioner in the 5th District.
Oakland Co.

Voters in Oakland Co. will see two John Scott's on their ballot this November; one an incumbant Republican, the other an Independent.

The race for Oakland Co. Commissioner in District 5 is between John Scott (R), Alexandria Riley (D), and John Scott (I).

The Oakland County prosecutor's office says it plans to charge John Scott (I) with election fraud over alleged petition-gathering irregularities.

Chief assistant prosecutor Paul Walton says a misdemeanor election fraud warrant would be issued today in Waterford District Court against the independent candidate for commissioner.

John Scott (I) is a 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University college student from West Bloomfield Township.

The incumbent John Scott (R) says his namesake opponent is trying to confuse the election process.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Commissioner Scott said several of his strong supporters had signed the petitions. When he called them to find out more, he learned John Scott was listed as the circulator on some of the petitions, but the people who signed them said a woman had solicited the signature.

Such tactics constitute misdemeanor election fraud, which carries a 93-day maximum jail sentence, said Oakland County chief assistant prosecutor Paul Walton. The warrant will be issued in Waterford District Court today.

Back in July, the incumbent Republican Oakland County Commissioner promised to challenge his namesakes petition gathering tactics.

From the Oakland Press:

Commissioner Scott is seeking a sixth two-year term in a newly drawn district representing parts of Waterford and West Bloomfield townships.

The commissioner says the other Scott’s filing “is just to confuse the election process."

“Naturally we’ll challenge this,” the commissioner said. “It’s fraudulent because there’s friends of mine signing petitions thinking it’s me.”

Back in July, John Scott (I) said he wasn't aware of the issue, “I didn’t really know who was running at first. I just wanted to get my name on the ballot.”

Scott (I) declined to speak with the Detroit Free Press about the issue.

Oakland County is being recognized this week by the Obama administration for economic innovation.  The county implemented shared online services, allowing 40 communities around Southeastern Michigan to implement features like online bill payments and tax assessments.

Phil Bertolini is Chief Information Officer for the county.  He says this allows communities to select and pay for only the things they need.

L. Brooks Patterson addressing the Oakland County Commission.
screen grab of Oakland Co. video

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was involved in a serious auto accident on August 9 when a VW Passat turned in front of his Chrysler 300:

Patterson and his driver were not wearing seat belts at the time.

Today, Patterson issued the following statement regarding the civil infraction issued by Auburn Hills Police today for not wearing a seatbelt when he was among victims of a crash caused by a VW Passat that turned in front of his Chrysler 300:

Not wearing a seatbelt was a mistake," Patterson said. "I accept my responsibility and paid the $65 fine this afternoon."

After spending five weeks in the hospital, Patterson was released last Friday and it recuperating at home.

Oakland County

Oakland County officials announced this afternoon that County Executive L. Brooks Patterson was discharged today from McLaren Oakland Hospital.

Patterson has spent five weeks in the hospital after he was severely injured in a crash in early August.

From the Oakland Co. press release:

L. Brooks Patterson
L. Brooks Patterson / Facebook.com

L. Brooks Patterson, County Executive of Oakland County, has been hospitalized since he was involved in a car crash on August 1o.

He had surgery to repair broken bones and a gash on his scalp. The Oakland Tribune reported Patterson suffered from two broken wrists, broken ribs, a broken femur, and the injury on his head.

He's been moved to a hospital rehabilitation unit at McLaren Oakland Hospital and is in good spirits, reports the Associated Press.

Patterson and his driver, Jim Cram, were not wearing seatbelts in the crash.

Two people in the other vehicle were also injured in the crash. The driver of that vehicle has been charged.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard says releasing more than 200 prisoners from the overcrowded  County Jail could have been avoided,  if judges had used alternative sentencing.

He  tells The Detroit News he sent a letter to judges earlier this month, notifying them of the "jail emergency and asking for cooperation to help avoid it."

Michigan law requires sentence reductions if prisoners don't pose a high risk.

Bouchard says beds are being used by inmates who don't need to be in jail, and could have been punished differently, avoiding the problem.

Some officials from Oakland County are trying to turn up the heat on Lansing to pay for a special election.

That election was called to replace Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, who resigned last month.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley called for the September 5th special election to fill out just the few remaining weeks of McCotter’s term. State officials maintain it’s required by law.

But that leaves local governments in suburban Detroit’s 11th district to pick up the tab.

The Oakland Press reports prosecutors will look into the car crash that sent Patterson and his driver, Jim Cram, to the hospital. Two men in the car that collided with Patterson's were also injured. Patterson and Cram were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.

The Diego Rivera mural at the DIA. The museum had a good week after their millage passed in three counties.
DIA

Last Tuesday, the Detroit Institute of Arts got a major vote of confidence from area voters when they approved a millage request to fund the museum. Taxpayer support means the museum will have a stable source of funding for the next ten years.

The next day, the museum was free to the residents in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties.

Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson is recuperating from serious injuries he suffered in an auto accident.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Oakland County's chief executive is still recuperating from surgery after suffering serous injuries from an auto accident last Friday afternoon.

Initial reports indicate he and his driver were not wearing seat belts.

From Oakland County's Daily Tribune:

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and his driver, James Cram, were not wearing seat belts at the time of a serious car crash Friday, according to Auburn Hills Police Department’s preliminary findings.

The Tribune reports Patterson suffered from "two broken wrists, broken ribs, a gash to the head and a broken femur." He underwent more surgery yesterday at McLaren Oakland Hospital.

The office of L. Brooks Patterson said in a statement that Patterson was resting comfortably and doctors reported that the surgery went well.

Patterson's leased Chrysler 300 was being driven by a 60-year-old former state police trooper, James Cram, who suffered serious injuries.

The crash is still under investigation.

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Oakland County's top elected official is in stable condition after suffering several broken bones and a gash to his scalp in a two-car crash in suburban Detroit.

Officials at McLaren Health Center in Pontiac say 74-year-old L. Brooks Patterson remained hospitalized Saturday, one day after the car he was riding in collided with another vehicle in Auburn Hills.

Patterson underwent surgery Friday night to repair broken bones.

Dr. Tressa Gardner, director of emergency services at McLaren, tells The Detroit News that Patterson is "doing great."

user Filiford / MorgueFile.com

Oakland County health officials say they've received Michigan Department of Community Health confirmation of West Nile virus in a 44-year-old man, the first such case reported in the state this year.

Today, the Oakland County Health Division announced that the man was hospitalized earlier this month after showing symptoms and he is now at home recovering.

On July 3, the MDCH announced it detected the virus in a mosquito pool sample in Saginaw County, and a wild turkey in Washtenaw County.

Oakland County’s economy had a “red hot” year in 2011. That’s according to a report by economists at the University of Michigan.

The county added more than 23,426 jobs last year. The economists who prepared the report say they expect the recovery to continue in the next three years – although at a more modest clip.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A federal court has tossed out a challenge to Michigan's redistricting plans for the state Legislature.

An order last week from a three-judge panel says the legal opposition to the new districts was "too factually
underdeveloped" to proceed.

The new boundaries are based on Census counts and begin with this year's elections.

Civil rights groups and Democrats sued late last year to challenge new boundaries for Detroit seats in the state House. Opponents said the map forces black incumbents to run against each other and dilutes the political representation of Hispanics.

Melvin Hollowell, an attorney for the NAACP and others who sued in the case, said Monday possible next steps are under review.

Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger said the ruling affirms that the Legislature drew fair and legal maps.

For the last fifteen months, Republicans have controlled everything in sight in Lansing -- the House, the Senate, the governor’s office and the Supreme Court.

They have the majorities to pass essentially anything they want, and even if something is constitutionally controversial, they are secure in the knowledge that it’s almost certain that the disgracefully partisan Michigan Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Oakland County Treasurer Andrew Meisner filed a lawsuit against federally backed mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last year.

He claimed they were dodging taxes.

And he won.

The result could mean millions of dollars in revenue - provided the case wins an expected appeal from the mortgage companies.

It's an appeal that's expected since other counties and states around the country are watching this case, and would love to line up and take their share of tax revenue from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

So what taxes are they dodging?

Matthileo Capitol / Flickr

Update 3/27/2012:

"The Michigan Supreme Court - in a decision that breaks along party-lines -  has upheld a state law that will let Republicans on the Oakland County Commission redraw their district lines. The Supreme Court says the law complies with the state constitution, regardless of whether it was designed to give one party a political advantage. The Supreme Court's three Democrats dissented from the decision," Rick Pluta reports.

Original Post 3/23/2012:

This week, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I decided to take a look at the political shenanigans playing out in Oakland County.

The Back-story

“There is a fight between Oakland County politicians – Democrats versus Republicans. It’s about the murky, dirty, filthy process of drawing new district lines for politicians to run in. In Oakland County, [the redrawing] is done by a bi-partisan panel. In this case, it’s a panel that has more Democrats than Republicans and the Democrats drew a map that the Republicans didn’t like,” Pluta explains.

So, some Republican lawmakers from Oakland County decided to have the state legislature change the redrawing rules. They devised a measure to allow the County Commission, which is controlled by Republicans, to redraw the lines. The measure was then passed by the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.

Democrats cried foul. They challenged the new law and, last month, Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette overturned it. Collette ruled the law violated the Michigan Constitution and that the governor and the Legislature illegally interfered in a local political question.

The question over the legality of the law made its way to the state’s highest court this week. On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides.

Politically-motivated maps

Republicans all along contended that the reason for the new law was to save taxpayers money. Democrats, and many pundits, said it was pure politics: that the GOP changed the rules so that Republican dominance on the County Board wouldn’t be challenged. But, this kind of claim is always hard to prove. Hard to prove… unless you have emails.

Busted: GOP emails released

This week, emails between Republican Oakland County officials and GOP lawmakers were released after the Oakland County Democratic Party filed a Freedom of Information Act. The emails appear to show, “officials in the offices of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s office and state Representatives – primarily Rep. Eileen Kowall – basically plotting and trying to find a rationale to kick this redistricting process back over to the County Commission where Republicans would control it,” Pluta explains.

‘It’s gonna be ugly’

In one email, Rep. Kowall wrote, “I guess it would also help to have (a) legitimate explanation as to why we waited until now, after redistricting plans have been submitted, to take these bills up.” She also wrote, “The quicker things move the better, ’cause it’s gonna be ugly.”

The Michigan Supreme Court - in a decision that breaks along party-lines -  has upheld a state law that will let Republicans on the Oakland County Commission redraw their district lines. The Supreme Court says the law complies with the state constitution, regardless of whether it was designed to give one party a political advantage. The Supreme Court's three Democrats dissented from the decision.

Last week, Zoe Clark and I took a look at the political shenanigans behind the Oakland County controversy. You can find that story here.

The Michigan Supreme Court hears arguments tomorrow over a state law allowing Republicans to draw county commission boundaries in Oakland County.  

Just released emails seem to show Oakland County Republicans tried to circumvent the rules to maintain control of the county commission.

“Clearly there has been a collusionary attempt on the part of the Republican legislators in this body from Oakland County," says Vicki Barnett, a Democratic state lawmaker from Farmington Hills. 

Barnett says it’s a “major breach of trust in the government system”. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tuesday’s election did not change the balance of power in the state house. 

Two vacant state house seats were up for grabs.

Voters in Genesee County filled a vacant state house seat on Tuesday.   The seat was made vacant last fall by a union-backed campaign that succeeded in recalling Republican Paul Scott.

Last night, Republican Joe Graves defeated Democrat Steve Losey to serve out the final year of Scott’s unfinished term.     

Graves says his message of jobs lead to the victory.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Election season gets off to an early start this year for the Michigan House.

Voters head to the polls Tuesday in two districts to fill vacancies left by former lawmakers. One seat covers a portion of Genesee County, while the other covers part of Oakland County.

The winners would have to run again to get full, two-year terms later in the year.

Republicans enter the 2012 election season with a 62-46 advantage over Democrats in the House.

A judge has overturned a state law that scrapped Oakland County’s new commission map and gave Republican elected officials the power to draw a new one.

The challenge was filed by Democrats who say the law was simply a GOP power grab.

The ruling is the latest chapter in a struggle for political power in the former Republican bastion that’s now a battleground county.

Democrats in Oakland County are suing Governor Snyder over a new law that gives county commissioners the power to draw their own districts.

Historically, a group of five county officials created the map. During the most recent process, Democrats dominated the group for the first time in recent history.

A fierce partisan battle among Oakland County politicians played out in front of a state House panel at the state Capitol today.

Democrats tried and failed to block a Republican effort to let the GOP-led Oakland County Commission redraw its own district lines.

The district map was already adopted earlier this year by a bipartisan apportionment commission, and it was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Democrats called the action to redraw the map a brazen effort by Republicans to undo a county commission map they don’t like.

Oakland County Commissioner David Woodward is a Democrat opposed to the bill.

“That this is being brought up, introduced after the rendered decisions, speaks of partisan overreach, specifically, Republican Party overreach - an attempt in this body to undo a process that has already run its course,” said Woodward.

The Oakland apportionment commission has a Democratic majority, while the Oakland County Commission is led by Republicans.

The bill would also reduce the number of county commissioners.

Republicans say the bill is designed to save taxpayers money.

L. Brooks Patterson addressing the Oakland County Commission.
screen grab of Oakland Co. video

New health care jobs have been a big area of growth in an economy struggling to create any jobs at all.

It's no wonder communities are working to attract new health care investments.

Marketplace's Gregory Warner produced a piece on what he calls L. Brooks Patterson's mission: "to rescue Oakland County by creating a medical mecca."

Patterson thinks a new hospital complex will bring in 3,000 jobs. He's seeking approval to build the McLaren Health Care Village in Oakland County.

But as Warner makes clear in his piece, people question whether the new hospital is needed.

And some economists say building redundant hospitals increases health care costs and taxes for all of us.

It's a point that makes Patterson a little hot around the collar.

You can listen to Warner's piece here:

And here is an animation by Warner and Adam Cole that helps explain the health care boom across the country:

Oh The Jobs (Debt?) You'll Create! from Marketplace on Vimeo.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Coyotes have been moving into a lot of American cities. Here in Michigan, you could potentially see coyotes almost anywhere. But researchers don't know a whole lot about the state’s urban coyotes.

A small research team from Wayne State University hopes to change that. They're trying to figure the animals out. They want to find out how many coyotes are living in cities. And they want to know what they’re eating, and how they survive.

A few weeks ago, one day just after dawn, I met up with the research team at the side of a road in Oakland County. We crossed the road to get to a grassy, undeveloped piece of land. The group fanned out to look for evidence of coyotes... that is: tracks, and scat.

After just a few steps, we found tracks.

Oakland County

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says the county’s budget is balanced for the next three years.

 Patterson laid out his recommendations for a triennial budget to Oakland County Commissioners Wednesday night.

 Patterson says that long-term planning has been key to maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, even as property tax revenues plummet.

 Patterson says the county has also managed to avoid cutting employee salaries and mass layoffs.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard  is making plans to take over the policing duties in Pontiac.  The city of Pontiac is shutting down its police department as the city deals with severe budget problems. 

The city’s rank and file police officers voted to dissolve their union contract this week.    Other public safety unions must also do the same before the Sheriff’s department takes over.  Sheriff Bouchard says policing Pontiac will pose some public safety challenges to his office. 

Pontiac police officers will continue to patrol their city. The police officers union has reached an agreement with the city's state appointed emergency financial manager which will avoid a court injunction sought by the union.

The Oakland Press reported Oakland County sheriff's deputies were preparing to takeover police patrols in the city.   The county board of commissioners approved the plan last week.

Pontiac is struggling with a massive city budget deficit.  Bringing in the sheriff's deputies was intended to save some money.  But the police union argues their contract with the city doesn't expire for another year.

The Detroit News reports Pontiac police chief Val Gross is relieved that the situation is finally resolved.

"This is not the end of the war, just one battle."

Poniac Polic car door
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATED POST 15:37

 Oakland County commissioners today  overwhelmingly rejected a proposal for the sheriff’s office to takeover policing in Pontiac.

 The city of Pontiac’s state appointed financial manager proposed shutting down the city’s police department and replacing the officers with sheriff’s deputies as a way to save money for the cash strapped city.  The city of Pontiac has a projected budget deficit of 9 million dollars.  

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