Fighting words 

In a move not typically associated with county government, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is ready to throw down. His would-be opponent? Michigan Land Use Institute deputy director, and frequent Metro Times contributor, Keith Schneider (who wrote the cover story for this issue).

In a recent report called “Follow the Money” that was shocking to precisely no one (except apparently Patterson), Schneider’s institute concluded that sprawl is bad; furthermore, that sprawl-centric, cost-heavy areas like Oakland County may not have long-term economic viability.

In his Feb. 10 State of the County address, Patterson came out of his corner swinging.

“Where do I start to rebut this idiot?” Patterson began, launching into a defense of Oakland County’s high property values and extensive shopping malls and golf courses. His diatribe ended with a literal call to arms. “If dueling was legal in Michigan, I’d smack Snyder [sic] across the face with my glove.”

Schneider says he’s not surprised that Patterson was on the defensive.

“You have to commend a chief of a county for defending the way it’s developed,” Schneider says. “But you also have to look at the data and determine if Oakland County is going to be as prosperous in 30 years as it is now.”

That, Schneider says, is a view he’s heard echoed by residents and businesspeople alike. “It’s not just my conclusion.”

Schneider says that the Detroit metropolitan area, including Oakland County, is a slow-growth area: “A lot of people are very concerned about congestion, pollution, cost of roads and infrastructure, the pattern of development and how expensive it is. It is not producing the buoyant pattern of economic prosperity it should.”

Patterson defended Oakland County’s growth, saying, “Sprawl is not bad. It’s in the eye of the beholder. If you have it, you call it ‘economic development.’ If you don’t have it, you whine and call it ‘sprawl.’”

Schneider says Patterson’s ball-check is part and parcel of his governmental policies:

“Brooks’ challenge to a duel kind of reflects the antique way he thinks. A duel reflects an 18th-century value system that doesn’t have any merit in this century.” Nevertheless, Schneider says he welcomes the conversation and a chance to open dialogue on the matter.

“I’m going to run out and buy him a pair of gloves,” he says.

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