News Hits had high hopes that politicians would put down the gloves and finally get together on the matter of public transportation. But, as they say in New Jersey, fuhgehdaboutit. Mayor-elect Kwame Kilpatrick hasn’t released a final draft of the legislation he’s expected to introduce on the House floor this week and already, mud is flying. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and his buddy, Detroit News columnist Thomas Bray, have big problems with what could be in the legislation. Sunday, Bray’s column slammed Kilpatrick’s proposal, saying it “calls for dumping most of the mess on the taxpayers of the surrounding counties” and expands union protection, a move that would “almost guarantee failure.”
Tom Alley, legislative aide to Kilpatrick, says Bray is off the mark. Alley called Bray’s article a “pre-emptive strike” against the legislation, in the works for months at the hands of reps from Detroit, the surrounding counties and the governor’s office. “This is certainly a huge and major issue, and there’s been tremendous progress,” Alley said. “It looks like a couple of writers are going after the bill and trying to stop it before it’s even introduced.”
Patterson and Bray weren’t available for comment, but Patterson’s transit go-to guy, Gerald Poisson, says Oakland County is taking a wait-and-see approach. “We’re just alerting people that we’re not automatically on board,” says Poisson, assistant deputy county executive. “It’s hard to tell since we haven’t seen the legislation.”
The county won’t support the Kilpatrick measure if it reduces the amount the state pays for local transit in favor of increased local taxes or if union protections are expanded, he says.
Karen Kendrick-Hands, president of Transportation Riders United, said she’s worried the deal could fall apart. “We’re closer than we’ve been in the 25 years that I’ve been here. We cannot let this go down the tubes.”Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]