Inside and outside of Oakland

Snyder signs new law cutting county commission districts; lawsuit expected

  Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law a bill that allows Oakland County to reduce the size of its county commission and draw new boundaries in advance of the 2012 election.

  House Bill 5187 requires counties with more than 50,000 population to reduce the size of the county commissions to 21 members.
  Only Oakland County will have to do that, lopping four seats from the 25-seat body.
  The legislation also turns the task of drawing new districts over to the current county commission, where Republicans have a 15-10 majority.
  In signing the legislation, a statement from Snyder's office says taxpayers will save $250,000 annually, and that large counties have to follow the model where only elected officials redraw district boundaries.
  Oakland County's boundaries were redrawn earlier this year by a five-person reapportionment committee that had three Democrats and includes the chairmen of the county Republican and Democratic parties.
  "H.B. 5187 brings greater transparency to the process," the Snyder statement said.
  However, Democrats compared Snyder, a Republican, to the Grinch and to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
  “Mr. Snyder apparently has decided to be ‘the Governor who stole democracy’ this holiday season," said Oakland County Democratic Party Chairman Frank Houston, who was also chairman of the county reapportionment committee.
  "It is outrageous that Gov. Snyder signed this Republican power grab bill into law; in effect changing redistricting, retroactively just for Oakland County,” Houston said.
  Said Commissioner Dave Woodward, D-Royal Oak: “Despite his rhetoric of bringing better days to Michigan, his actions are mirroring the despicable tactics of Russia’s Vladimir Putin by trying to undermine democracy.”
  Putin is seeking a third term as Russia's president.
  Democrats predict a lawsuit challenging the new law is "imminent" in the coming weeks.
  As a practical matter heading into an election year, county commissioners running for re-election, or those seeking the office, no longer have an idea what or where the districts are.
  What is likely, however, is that districts drawn by the county commission will benefit Republicans, much as the districts drawn by the Democrat majority on the apportionment committee were seen as benefiting Democrats.
  "That's a safe assumption," said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, a Republican.
Patterson dismissed complaints from Democrats about the new law.
  "They seem to be miffed we appealed their case to a higher court, in essence," Patterson said. "I'm sure somewhere along the line the Democrats will file a lawsuit and then it's game on."
  Patterson again defended the change in state law.
  "It's going to save the taxpayers money and it makes the board more manageable," he said. "We're the only county with 25 commissioners. It was a tad overweight."
  Congressional, legislative, county commission and some municipal boundaries are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census.
  Democrats say the NAACP and others have expressed concern that majority-minority districts required by federal law will see decreased representation.

  “Make no mistake, House Bill 5187 is going to reduce the representation of underrepresented people and communities across Oakland County,” said Oakland County Commissioner Mattie McKinney Hatchett, D-Pontiac.
Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, charlie.crumm@oakpress.com or follow him on Twitter @crummc and on Facebook. More information is at oaklandmichiganpolitics.blogspot.com. Keep up with the latest in local news by texting OPNews to 22700. Msg & Data Rates May Apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

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