DETROIT (WWJ) – Management of the Detroit water system was also among the topics of discussion, Friday, as the so-called “Big Four” leaders met at the Detroit Economic Club luncheon at Cobo Center.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel,  Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano arrived in style to the Auto Show — cruising in a Chevy Volt — but got directly down to business.

They each spoke about working together to improve the Detroit’s water system — Patterson suggesting a regional board to manage it.

“There was supposed to be a meeting this 19th of January to set the rates, but they postponed it. Now, they’re going to come out February 1 and we’re led to believe the reason postponement occurred to set the rates was because, frankly, they’re going to shift more of the burden to the suburbs,” Patterson said.

Mayor Bing said he’s not going to try to defend the management of the water system.

“Because, it has not been managed appropriately, number one,” Bing said. “But I want the time to really take a hard look at that,” he said.

Bing says if they fight over it, that will just lead to more litigation. He says they have to do what’s best for the entire region.

 The city has been working on a plan to turn around the system that was mismanaged by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick stands accused of steering water contracts to his friend, Bobby Ferguson, in a federal indictment in December.  Former Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Victor Mercado is charged in that same indictment.

Speaking to the Cobo crowd on Friday, Hackel stood in defense of Mayor Bing.

“The city of Detroit has nothing to do with the former mayor — it has to do with the mayor here,” Hackel said to a round of applause.

“He’s a decent, honest guy. For the most part, I’m supportive of the mayor and his ability to run his operations. If there is a concern later, we will take another look at it,” Hackel said.

Job generation in the region was a hot topic.

All four spoke of a spirit of cooperation to create jobs in Southeast Michigan and retain young talent.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel says there are untapped resources such as the Saint Clair and Detroit Rivers that can attract young people.

“I’m stepping out-of-bounds here speaking about it, but it would really help even with the boating industry, if we look at the possibility of allowing Urban Development on a place like Belle Isle, and just tried that,” Hackel said.

“Obviously, there would be an economic impact for the city of Detroit. But, how that would help Macomb County is that of all the cities see the boating industry flourish, there would be so much development in and around the actual lake itself,” he said.

Ficano says it’s good to see an uptick in the auto industry, but they’d like to see more business   “We have to show business that we want to be consistent; that we have long-range plans; that the tax break is one that you’re going to be attracted to,” Ficano said.

“And we probably should go over to Illinois right now, because they just raised their income tax like sixty-six percent or something, and show that we have a culture and a climate that we want you to come to,” he said.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said the region should focus on the auto supply industry. “I think probably have one of the best deals that I can offer. I’ve got more land than anybody that’s going to be available, so, I’m ready!” he said.

Bing referred to recent talk about shrinking the city, but said more will be discussed about that in the second quarter.

More from the Auto Show.

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