By Carol Cain
SOUTHFIELD (CBS 62) – With Detroit’s finances finally hitting the boiling point as Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr filed for bankruptcy, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said he and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel planned a trip to New York City to visit the bond rating houses to retain their county’s Triple A ratings.
“We talked about our doing that together to get in front of the fallout from the bankruptcy,” said Patterson, the region’s longest serving county executive, during taping of “Michigan Matters.”
Patterson appeared along with Rod Alberts, executive director of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, and Tony Michaels, president and CEO of The Parade Company. That “Michigan Matters” episode airs 11:30 a.m. this Sunday on CBS 62.
Patterson has expressed concern his county’s bond ratings as well as others in the region would be negatively impacted by Detroit’s bankruptcy. Lower bond ratings equal higher interest rates — which could translate into higher suburban taxes.
“Mark and I talked about that and the need for us to go to New York sooner vs later,” said Patterson.
Macomb and Oakland counties are Detroit’s much more politically and financially stable neighbors; the city sits inside Wayne County, which also has its share of budgetary woes.
When asked if they would include Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano on that trip, Patterson said, “No. He has his own problems to worry about,” referring to the county’s financial issues, numerous corruption charges against members of his staff, and lawsuits stemming from former county officials.
“Both Macomb and Oakland have AAA ratings and we want to keep it,” said Patterson.
The city of Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history Thursday, culminating a decades long downward spiral that saw the once bustling metropolis morph into one plagued by population loss, dwindling tax base and mounting financial woes.
“This bankruptcy is unfortunate but was predictable,” said Patterson. “The hole was too deep, and now a lot of good people who were not involved with the bad decisions will now have to pay the price.”
“This is a sad day when the largest city in the state of Michigan goes into bankruptcy,” said Ficano, who runs the largest of the state’s 83 counties.
“One is the effect it’s going to have, not only on the city of Detroit but southeast Michigan and the state of Michigan as well. This is going to reverberate through all the bonds, all the finances, of not only the counties in this area but also the municipalities and probably the state of Michigan,” Ficano added.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who rounds out the region’s “Big Four” political leaders, had this to say about the filing: “This action will hopefully be the foundation for the fiscal turn-around of our City. Our citizens have suffered long enough and deserve better. I want to say to the people of Detroit that although we are moving into uncharted waters, Detroit has a history of fighting back during tough times. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a better path forward for our city.”
Michaels, who oversees signature events including the Ford Fireworks, the Woodward Dream Cruise and America’s Thanksgiving Parade, said it was vital for leaders in Detroit, the region and state to come together to help the Motor City.
Alberts who has worked for the DADA for 23 years and overseen the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center, compared the city’s plight to the Detroit auto show’s plight in 2008.
“We had to practically start over in some ways when everything came to a standstill (because of the global economic meltdown),” said Alberts.
Both General Motors and Chrysler were thrust into bankruptcy and thousands of auto dealerships across the nation were forced to close.
“But, we are stronger today because of all that happened and all we went through,” Alberts added.
Carol Cain is Emmy winning Senior Producer/Host of “Michigan Matters.” She also writes a column on business and politics for Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch “Michigan Matters” at 11:30 am Sunday on CBS 62