July 1, 2009
Doesn’t it feel like Election Day 2008 was a long time ago?
Since that time a new wave of officeholders around Oakland County and the country have assumed office and begun work tackling the challenges of the day.
That is, except for the office of the Oakland County Treasurer.
Due to an odd provision of state law dating back to 1895, in Michigan counties with one million or more people the term of the County Treasurer does not begin until July 1 of the year following the election. Back in November I defeated incumbent Treasurer Pat Dohany in a constructive and civil campaign focused on our competing visions for the role of the County Treasurer in the 21st Century – never about personal attacks. I favored the Treasurer taking a more assertive role in fighting the decline of property values and the damage caused by the foreclosure crisis, while Mr. Dohany favored a more traditional approach to the office. While both positions are reasonable, I think voters favored my approach as they saw the County’s long-time prosperity threatened like never before.
Over the past several months, Mr. Dohany has been a true gentleman, giving generously of his time and attention to ensure a successful transition, which has been great for me and even better for our taxpayers. After all, the stewardship of Oakland County finances has been in the careful hands of the Dohany family for decades, as Mr. Dohany’s father and Oakland County forefather, C. Hugh Dohany, preceded him in office. The Office of the Oakland County Treasurer will honor the service of both Pat and Hugh Dohany through the renaming and official commemoration of the “Dohany Conference Room,” dedicated in honor of nearly 40 years of service to Oakland County by Hugh and Pat Dohany.
As the new Oakland County Treasurer, I inherit a very difficult situation. Our property values are dropping for the first time in decades, while corresponding decreases in property tax revenues force difficult downsizing discussions about the role of county government. Our retirement funds have had serious exposure to the volatile markets and have suffered great losses, just like the rest of us. Foreclosures continue to climb, while jobs disappear.
Moving forward will require genuine bipartisan cooperation with my colleagues in county government who have done such a good job of adapting and innovating during tough times. My hope is that the “land bank” I have proposed – an incubator for helping to nurse sick, unproductive residential, commercial and industrial properties back to health – can help our county to protect our property values from falling further by fighting the blight of foreclosure and fully leveraging federal dollars for this purpose.
I also hope to use my experience as Chairman of the House Commerce Committee, where I authored the Motion Picture Film Incentive package, to assist the Oakland County Economic Development and Business Financing Corporations in their critical missions of promoting entrepreneurship, growth and new jobs.
From the first day of my term on July 1 and beyond, I look forward to traveling around our beautiful county to meet with citizens, local government leaders and private and nonprofit sector partners to reintroduce them to the Office of the County Treasurer, and to explore new opportunities for partnership and innovation.
While we face enormous deficits and gloomy financial projections, I offer a slightly-altered quote from an American President who at the time spoke of our great nation in saying: “There is nothing wrong with Oakland County that can’t be fixed by what’s right with Oakland County.”
I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to be a part of this process at such a critical time. Thank you Oakland County.