Over the past 16 years, L. Brooks Patterson has worked very hard to move Oakland County forward into the dawn of a new century. His focus has been on developing and implementing innovative programs that will prepare Oakland County for the tougher competitive challenges presented by the new global economy of the 21st century.
Featured: Oakland Medical - Health Care and Life Science Initiative (September 2008)
In the coming term, one of his major goals is to see Wireless Oakland fully operational and implemented across the broad spectrum of Oakland County's entire 910 square miles.
When completed, Wireless Oakland will be the largest free wireless Internet network of its kind in the world. It will create enormous educational opportunities for our children and provide job retraining potential for our workers. Wireless Oakland will also close the digital divide between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not.
During the next four years, the Emerging Sectors program is fully expected to continue growing and attracting visionary knowledge-based companies to our shores -- those that will provide the kind of jobs that will strengthen Oakland County's career and business opportunities for many years to come.
Automation Alley, Michigan's premiere technology corridor, which is among the top 10% of high tech consortiums in America, will continue to expand and surpass the 1,000 mark in membership in the very near future. The Alley will continue playing an important role in exposing our small and mid-sized companies to business opportunities on an international scale.
One of the biggest challenges over the next four years will be waging an ongoing budget battle to keep spending in line with revenues. Oakland County, like other governmental entities locally and nationwide, is facing declining revenues caused by stagnant or falling property values, the mortgage crisis, and other economic factors beyond our control.
Fortunately for Oakland County, we have an award-winning group of financial gurus working in the Department of Management and Budget. They have dealt successfully with budget shortfalls in the past, and we are very confident they will be able to do so in the future.
Another major goal is to maintain our prized AAA Bond Rating, which saves our taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on drain and sewer projects. That hasn't been an easy task in such a depressed economic environment, but Wall Street still has faith in our strong financial management skills and conservative budgeting practices.
In the days and months ahead, the County Executive administration will continue working with business and education to increase the educational opportunities available to our children so they are fully prepared to function and succeed in the more competitive global environment of the 21st Century.
The Mandarin Chinese language, which is now being taught in 14 of Oakland County's 28 public school districts, will be expanded to the rest in the next few months. China is emerging as an economic powerhouse, and our children must be ready to confront that reality in the world of tomorrow.
Also on our radar screen for the next term is a renewed focus on Quality of Life issues, which make working and living in Oakland County so enjoyable.
Our Rails-to-Trails system is geared for expansion. The trail system now spans 90 miles, which runs through a dozen Oakland County communities, with another 13 miles of trail in the planning and development stages and an additional 117 miles under review for inclusion in the linked network.
One of the new programs which was briefly mentioned in County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's 2008 State of the County Address is Oak Street, a component of the County's highly successful Main Street program, which since 2001 has generated more than $450 million in new investment, created nearly 250 new jobs and serves as a catalyst for 25 new businesses.
Just getting off the ground, Oak Street is designed to be a Countywide program to aid the preservation and rehabilitation of older and often times unique residential neighborhoods that create a community identity and character.
Efforts will continue in the days ahead to improve infant and maternal health for our residents. This includes working diligently to reduce the infant mortality rates experienced in some of our cities like Southfield and Pontiac.
Steady progress is being made, but were not there yet. The black infant mortality rate in Southfield declined from 22.5 in 2001 to 10.7 in 2005. In Pontiac it fell from 28.1 in 2001 to 20.1 in 2005. Improvement to be sure, but it's not good enough.
While much has been accomplished, much yet needs to be done. We look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Oakland County to the best of our ability.