Home / General / Elections have consequences: Oakland County edition

Elections have consequences: Oakland County edition


Earlier this month, the odious segregationist and planet-cooking sprawl advocate L. Brooks “What we’re going to do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation, where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn” Patterson did one of the most decent things he’s done in his entire 27 year tenure as Oakland County Executive: he died. This retroactively makes the Democratic party’s excellent performance in the 2018 election all the more important: because they’d managed to capture a narrow 11-10 majority of the county council for the first time in Patterson’s tenure. Since the council appoints an interim executive until the scheduled 2020 election, this victory turns out to be more consequential than it appeared last year.

After some chaotic machinations that involved a Democratic CM resigning in anticipation of being appointed Commissioner, only to discover he didn’t have the votes and quickly rescinding his resignation to retain the Democratic majority, a party-line vote instilled Democratic Ferndale mayor David Coulter for the next 16 months. As Streetsblog reports, In a recent interview Coulter announced his support for reviving an initiative that failed by 1% in 2016 to fund a serious regional bus network. (Patterson declined to endorse either way in 2016, but clearly opposed it, and gloated obnoxiously when it lost.) Currently, the suburban bus system and Detroit’s bus system are poorly integrated, making it difficult for poor, carless Detroit residents to access jobs in the growing suburban counties, locking in urban poverty. It’s noteworthy that Coulter is mayor of Oakland county’s Southeastern most city, only 20 minutes from downtown Detroit and sharing one of Detroit’s most significant corridors, Woodward Ave.

The 2016 transit initiative loss was understandably overshadowed by That Other Thing That Happened, but it was a major disappointment in a year 70% of elections to fund transit expansions were successful. Oakland County’s 2016 electorate didn’t show much of a Democratic swing; at the presidential level it was essentially the same as 2012, with both the Republican and Democrat losing some support to 3rd party candidates, and the transit initiative failing by less than 1%. But the Trump backlash showed up in a big way in 2018, when Oakland county flipped to Democratic control, and big D swings (from a nearly 40 point loss to an 11 point loss in the Oakland portion of the 8th, from a 16 point loss to a 4 point win in the 11th) played an important role in both the House seats flipped by Democrats, as well as two of the five State Senate seats Democrats picked up. If the Oakland county shift from 2016 to 2018 has any durability to it, the transit measure should be in pretty good shape. Full-throated support from Oakland County’s leader can only help, and better integration between Detroit and its suburbs is badly needed. Thanks to the 2018 election (and colon cancer), the chances of real transit integration are greatly improved.

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