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Detroit Free Press strongly denounces county executives' efforts to derail regional transit

SMART bus

A prominent columnist at the Detroit Free Press, Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Henderson, and the paper's editorial board have come out staunchly against recent efforts to scuttle regional transit by county executives L. Brooks Patterson and Mark Hackel, respectively of Oakland and Macomb counties.

"Twenty-six times this region has tried to create functional transit across three or four counties, and 26 times, we've come up short. Way short," writes the editorial board. "Until 2012, when the state Legislature created a Regional Transit Authority for southeast Michigan. This time, with state support and a rock-solid structure built to harness cooperation among the various parties in the region, things would be different. This time, we would get it right."

But then the two county executives objected to the plan, which had been in the works for many months, two weeks before the millage needed to get approved for the November ballot.

Here's what the editorial board thinks of the last-minute antics: "[R]epresentatives from Oakland and Macomb objected, blindsiding RTA officials and other board members who'd negotiated in good faith. Oakland's representative delivering a 19-page list of grievances, ranging from the quasi-legitimate to the asinine."

Part of their argument is that Oakland and Macomb fail to see the region as a cohesive whole—they are stuck in a balkanized mindset.

Henderson's column, titled "Hackel, Patterson trying to build a wall in S.E. Michigan," demonstrates he feels similarly. Like the editorial board, he questions the timing, and goes point by point through their objections, which he calls "selfish." But again, county executives fail to see that the "dividends pay back region-wide."

He ends the column with a plea: "Time is short. For this to get onto the November ballot, something has to be approved by early August. If that doesn't happen, we're looking at 2018 before another opportunity comes up. And that would be near-criminal neglect. Think of the stranded and isolated lives, kept from opportunity by our lousy transit, that will unfold over those next two years."

A Model D article from last year speculated whether the suburbs would buy in to regional transit. Perhaps, sadly, we have our answer. 
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