Coulter resides in Ferndale and received an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University. He was an Oakland County Commissioner from 2002-2010, mayor of Ferndale from 2011-2019, and was appointed county executive in August of 2019. He has held several board positions with community non-profit groups.
STRUCTURE OF THE OFFICE
At the present time, with an appointed county executive, it would seem to members of the public that the office is operating with the same basic structure that has been in place during all the years L. Brooks Patterson held the office. What changes are you proposing, either in the structure to the executive office itself or to the general operation of the position? Explain the logic behind the changes. Will the changes involve added budget for operating the office?
As county executive, I have hired the most diverse leadership team in county history, including the first woman to serve as chief deputy executive and the first African American deputy executive. This team is complemented by a former city manager, and an expert in economic development, budgeting and procurement. I recently appointed the county’s first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer to focus both on internal and external efforts in this important area. We have approached our work in a collaborative fashion evaluating every department from IT to facilities to seek improvements and efficiencies. We also conducted an outside review of our economic development department in order to create a new strategy for the next 10 years. We have maintained strict adherence to fiscal discipline approving a three-year balanced budget with progressive values and maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating in March.
EXECUTIVE VETO POWER
An elected county executive has veto power over ordinances, polices and resolutions passed by the county board of commissioners. Most recently, the county board, controlled by Democrats, adopted a policy that gives county employees the day off to vote in an election, by some estimates an added cost of $1 million for the county and its taxpayers. In that state voters approved no-reasons absentee voting, some say this new policy is unnecessary. Do you think the county board policy change should have been vetoed by the executive?
An active and engaged electorate is a bedrock principle and we need to do everything we can to eliminate barriers to voting and to promote civic engagement. I supported Oakland County joining with Macomb County, Wayne County, the state of Michigan and many private sector companies in providing election day as a day off for our employees. Our completely voluntary workforce of current poll workers is aging and it is vital that we encourage others to become involved in working polls and assisting our local clerks. This new policy costs $304,800 and was approved in the context of Oakland County’s balanced three-year budget.
How does a county executive balance the responsibility of focusing on the local county's needs, now and in the future, while at the same time being an active participant – rather than an impediment – when it comes to regional issues?
I believe we can both stand up for our residents and reach out to our regional partners. As county executive, I have done that by making Oakland County an an active member of the region again. For example, I felt strongly about re-joining the Detroit Regional Partnership. This 11-county partnership focuses on attracting businesses to the region. As the economic engine of the state, we know we are competing not against ourselves, or our neighbors in the region, but as a region against other parts of the country and globe. I am confident if we join together to attract out-of-state and global companies, Oakland County will get its fair share of business activity. I have also worked closely with leaders in the region during the pandemic coordinating on testing and health orders to keep our region and its residents safer from the spread of the virus.
The issue of mass transit for southeast Michigan has been a hotly debated topic for over four decades. More recently voters in this county have been less enthusiastic in terms of tax increases to support a system beyond what we now have through SMART or an expanded system that does not provide equal benefits for all Oakland County communities. At the same time, the future for the modes of personal transportation is a big question. Plus, one of the impacts of the pandemic crisis is the number of employees who have been working remotely, which raises a legitimate question of whether there will be even less demand for an expanded mass transit system. What are your thoughts on the mass transit issue?
A new regional transit plan must address the economic development needs of our communities, provide frequent and reliable service for workers, seniors and the disabled, utilize new technology and create flexible mobility options for communities in all parts of Oakland County. I believe that transit will make our region more competitive economically and attract younger people who want transit options. I am committed to finding a transit solution that will benefit our county and the entire region.
WHY VOTE FOR YOU
Why should voters select you over your primary opponent? Please be specific in drawing your comparison.
I have achieved results as county executive, maintained our AAA bond rating and led during a crisis. I was a unifying voice after the passing of L. Brooks Patterson and my collaborative leadership style has allowed my team to move quickly to achieve results and pull everyone together during the pandemic. I have demonstrated that you can stand up to President Trump’s agenda when it is wrong for Oakland County. When Planned Parenthood was defunded, I stepped into to ensure family planning was available to Oakland County women. When immigrants and refugees were demonized, I made Oakland County a welcoming county. I am proud to be the only candidate in the Democratic primary that has endorsements from the county officials I work with every day. The road ahead calls for a county executive who is already implementing the plans to address our challenges and seize our opportunities.
Meisner lives in Huntington Woods and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from University of Detroit-Mercy. He served as a Michigan State Representative for the 27th House District from 2002-2008 and has been Oakland County Treasurer since 2009. He has held several board positions with community non-profit groups.
STRUCTURE OF THE OFFICE
The county executive office has lost a great deal of experience in county government since the appointment, especially in the area of budget and finance. Most current appointees had no county government experience. We also seem to have discontinued the use of a five-year fiscal plan, which has been one of the hallmarks of the county’s financial management. I would correct that to protect our AAA bond rating and our ability to address liabilities before they are realized.
EXECUTIVE VETO POWER
During my years in public service I have strongly supported measures to encourage participation in elections and to uplift the franchise. I question the timing of this particular move given the passage of Proposal 3, allowing no-reason absentee voting, and given the cost as county employees I speak with would much rather avoid the cuts they’re experiencing now, and may continue to experience, instead of getting election day off when they can simply mail their ballot in without affecting their work schedule in any way.
Long-time County Executive Brooks Patterson, whose term the interim executive is completing now, held the view that any gain by others in the region was a loss for Oakland County.
I fundamentally disagree with this assessment and believe that the regions that are enjoying the greatest growth in economic vitality and population (at least pre-COVID) are those that have branded themselves as a region and competed with other regions, countries and trading blocs. We don’t want to simply move jobs around the region, but instead, we want to bring more investment to our region knowing full well that Oakland County will get at least its share given our amazing schools and communities, highly-skilled workforce and extraordinary recreational opportunities.
I support regional transit knowing that health issues raised by the pandemic must be addressed and resolved. That said, there are very few or no major markets thriving nationally without regional transit. We need what regional mobility systems bring: investment, increased property values, young people, the ability to get to work, and for seniors and persons with disabilities to navigate the region. The current interim executive’s failure to get a plan on the ballot is a terrible blow for the cause. I never thought the transit situation could be worse off (no Macomb County at the table, even a Swiss cheese approach on opt-outs that failed in Lansing) under Democratic control than it was under Brooks Patterson, but that is where we stand today. I will change that as Executive and do so in a way that protects the public health and provides real value for everyone in Oakland County.
WHY VOTE FOR YOU
I have a strong record of delivering innovative public service to Oakland County as treasurer for 10 years and State Representative for six, as well as work on Capitol Hill as a policy advisor and in the private and non-profit sectors. My opponent does not. As treasurer I’ve helped 30,000 families save their homes from foreclosure, while protecting our AAA bond rating and supporting small business. My opponent has not. I am proposing a comprehensive and innovative agenda as county executive spanning gender and racial equity, small business, healthcare, education and sustainability, among others, which can be found in detail on my website. My opponent has not. I have shared in the sacrifice during the COVID crisis as county employees pay is being cut, taking a voluntary pay cut. My opponent has not. I am focused on the future of Oakland County. My opponent is not.