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1. Why are you running for County Executive?
I’m running for County Executive because the media seems to be ignoring the underlying challenges in Oakland County and the current administration refuses to acknowledge them. Oakland County lost 175,000 jobs between 2000 and 2010, median household income in the county has declined by 15 percent, property values have plummeted, the number of children in poverty has more than doubled, school districts are struggling and young families are not choosing Oakland County as the place to settle. This trend started happening well before the economic crisis of 2008-2009 hit and the Patterson administration has not provided any strategic leadership to address these underlying problems. Patterson has convinced voters that being able to balance a budget is the only measure on which to judge success. I have higher expectations for Oakland County – and the entire region.
2. How does it feel being one of the only openly gay candidates running for office in Michigan at this time?
It’s disappointing that Michigan does not currently have a single LGBT community member in the state house or senate, and has no candidates for the legislature on the ballot this November. This race for Oakland County Executive is the largest municipal race in the country this year at the executive/mayoral level with an LGBT candidate on the ballot. The LGBT community in Michigan has been hard hit of late with changes from Lansing, with more on the way, and one reason this is happening is because the LGBT community really is not very visible across the state in elected office. That needs to change.
3. Have you ever been mistreated for being gay?
We’ve all faced challenges in our lives simply for being gay. The worst among my challenges was being dismissed from what was for me a dream job simply because I was gay. I was the CFO for an international management consulting company and during my 90-day review I was told that I would be promoted to COO within 60 days. Within two weeks, however, my life was turned upside down as I went from hero to goat. The CEO found out about my family structure after I had a staff party in my home and that was the end of that. I was in a new town, with a brand new home and things looked bleak. Things ultimately worked out just fine for me, but others aren’t so lucky when this occurs. Without protections, we are always vulnerable.
4. Would being gay have any impact on your role as County Commissioner?
Somebody’s sexual orientation really should be irrelevant in the role of County Executive. That said, I do think that my being a member of the LGBT community gives me a heightened awareness of the need to make sure that voices from all communities in Oakland County are being heard, which I do not believe is the case today. Oakland County has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, but our policies and approach to government have not.
5. Do you feel like Oakland County is a diverse and welcoming place?
There is no doubt that Oakland County has become an extremely diverse community – in whatever way you want to measure it. While the citizens of Oakland County are a welcoming group, the Patterson administration has left Oakland County with an image problem. When Troy mayor Janice Daniels made disparaging remarks about the LGBT community, Brooks Patterson remained silent. The Patterson administration has been the single biggest impediment to the establishment of a regional transit authority, making Oakland County appear isolationist. Patterson’s recent games around rigging the redistricting process has left communities of color feeling marginalized. Image matters and the Patterson administration seems stuck in decades gone by.
6. Has anyone, including your opponent, made homosexuality an issue in this race? Has it been brought up in any literature or debates?
To this point, the “gay” issue has not been brought up in the campaign. There are folks that have made comments online and others who have tried to generate conversation with the media, but those attempts really haven’t gotten very far. On the whole, Oakland County residents just don’t care if a candidate is gay. But, there is a segment of folks that do want it to be an issue and we just have to see what happens. My partner and I are mostly concerned about the impact negative campaigning might have on our children.