DETROIT (WWJ/MICHIGAN MATTERS) It was talk of water that got temperatures rising among the “Big Four” regional leaders during the recent Detroit Economic Club luncheon gathering at Cobo Center that airs as a special Michigan Matters.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson offered his take on how to solve the woes of Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department which provides water for four million in Southeast Michigan.

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Do for the Water Department what the Big Four did at Cobo Center and create a regional authority.

“Why don’t we set up a management team to break up the monopoly and let the suburbs and the city have some say so, and then Detroit can  maintain ownership?” Patterson said. “After years of mismanagement I think we are entitled to have access to the books as it we do at Cobo.”

Also taking part in the discussion that touched on various issues was Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

As noted by Patterson, the conflict over the water system stems back decades.

State Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth, just  introduced legislation in Lansing that would place management in suburban hands. And Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner John McCullough this week also asked a federal judge to appoint a regional oversight board.

Bing said the department has been mismanaged but more court battles were not the solution.

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On other issues, the four leaders  were asked what they would like to see on a regional “dashboard” of issues similar to one Gov. Rick Snyder announced for the state last week.

Patterson would like to see a true reading of the unemployment rate for the region and hopefully see it go down over the next year.

Bing said financial stability of his city and state would be on his list.

Ficano mentioned public transit and Hackel agreed regional transportation should be front and center.

When asked what Washington could do to help the comeback of autos and Michigan, Patterson said: “Lift the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf. Drill off shore. Drill in the Anwar district in Alaska. We are artificially creating our own oil shortage, forcing the prices up at the pump. If gas hits $5 a gallon it will cripple the auto recovery.”

Barron Meade, chair of the 2011 North American International Auto Show which is put on by the Detroit Auto Dealers Association and was also involved in co-sponsoring the Economic  Club luncheon with WWJ-TV CBS Detroit, asked the four how to entice more manufacturers into the region.

Bing said, “I think our focus should be on getting more of the supply base of the auto industry. And  I’ve probably got one of the best deals that I can offer. I’ve got more land than anyone else can offer, so I’m ready.”

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Carol Cain hosts Michigan Matters, airing 11 a.m. Saturdays on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit . You can read her columns on politics and business in the Sunday’s Free Press. She can be reached at  248-355-7126 or via e-mail.