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Howley takes on Patterson

Kevin Howley

Kevin Howley

Kevin Howley is the Democratic candidate running for Oakland County Executive. Howley, a graduate of Havard Business School, has worked in the private sector for the last 25 years. He currently works in turnaround management and has concentrated on helping nonprofits. He has two children and lives in Huntington Woods

The Michigan Citizen: What attracted you to this race?

Kevin Howley: I don’t know if you recall a series of cartoons that appeared in the Detroit News (“The Real Oakland County”), but the cartoons described the massive job losses over the last decade and how the median household income has declined. The number of kids on Medicaid is astounding. It went from 10 percent to 25 percent in 2010 and I asked myself why isn’t anyone talking about the issues?

MC: Many say L. Brooks Patterson is unbeatable. What do you say?

KH: Oakland County is changing and I wanted to address the issues. There are so many voices that aren’t being heard. I feel like Patterson and his administration is living in the 1960s. They aren’t aware of the communities of color, at-risk communities, LGBTQ community and, frankly, the southern end of this county has been forsaken. So many voices aren’t being heard.

MC: How can Oakland County be a better partner to Detroit?

KH: One of the things I have come to understand, as I have gone through this process, any region, institution, operation or any organizational structure will not succeed if you create artificial barriers. Things just don’t get done if you don’t have a free flow of thoughts and ideas. One of the things the region has suffered from is that we have been highly divided. I think one of the barriers is Oakland County choosing to isolate itself … We don’t have the things, as a region, that entrepreneurs and young people are looking for. There are 4,000 engineering spots that are open and they can’t find the people to come here. That is because we don’t have a regional platform. There should be a high level of trust between Wayne and Oakland counties. We should do more together to move the region forward.

MC: What’s your position on regional transportation authority?

KH: Interestingly, when Gov. Snyder is going around the state he makes the comment, “We’ve tried to do this 23 times” and 23 times it has failed. We cannot fail again. People like to cast blame and Oakland county has been a roadblock in this process but we have been myopic … current powers-that-be have said, “as long as this doesn’t cost Oakland county anything.” This is a one-sided analysis. They are ignoring the benefits … the failure has been not looking at a true public policy (cost/benefit) analysis.

MC: What do you think the demographic changes in Oakland County will mean for leadership in the next few years?

KH: I think it has been a fantastic opportunity for Oakland County to be the home of outreach and diversity. Look at the Chaldean community or the Chinese and Arab communities. Obviously, the African American community has always been a strong base and continues to grow. My frustration is with the Patterson administration that doesn’t recognize change is happening and these communities are going to be driving the future of the county.

The main message I have tried to talk about is we have  a lot of issues to deal with in Oakland County, but if you don’t acknowledge what is going on you can’t move the county forward. These are the opportunities and challenges moving forward.

Right now, all you hear is that we have a balanced budget and look at us compared to Wayne County. Frankly, I think we need to have higher expectations. I don’t say that to slam Wayne, I mean that to say let’s compare ourselves to the Denver region or Chicago in attracting new families to the region.

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