|The Macomb Daily|
|Tuesday, January 20, 2009|
Charter gets input from neighbors
By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
The Macomb County Charter Commission plans to solicit advice from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano as it prepares to overhaul Macomb's government and put an elected executive in charge.
Charter Commissioner Tom Rombach, chair of the group's Executive/Commissioner Committee, said the two neighboring county executives and top commissioners from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb will be invited to appear before his committee in the coming weeks.
In its first meeting since being formed earlier this month, the 15-member Executive/Commissioner Committee held a "brainstorming session" recently to discuss the potential power-sharing arrangements between the county executive and county board. Rombach said the discussion, held in an informal, roundtable format, was an attempt to prioritize the many issues that the committee faces.
"It was primarily a brainstorming session. The idea was that there's no such thing as a bad idea," said Rombach, a Clinton Township Democrat.
"Some of the more contentious issues will be the subject of debate, research and study," he added. "And I think we'll do those closer to the end."
At the top of the list of contentious issues is reducing the size of the Board of Commissioners. The "home rule" charter — essentially a county constitution — can reduce the 26-member board to as few as five commissioners.
Rombach's committee will meet every Monday as they decide how the charter will lay out the parameters of the executive branch and determine the "powers of the purse" that are awarded to the board. Rombach said some of the toughest debates will be over the "tension" between the executive and legislative branches, and the checks and balances that dictate that relationship.
Tensions have been running high in Wayne County, where Ficano is engaged in a court battle with Sheriff Warren Evans over layoffs and budget cuts. Ficano has asserted that the sheriff's department went $16 million over budget last year and that Evans engaged in wasteful spending.
In response to Ficano's order for 44 layoffs at the department, including 22 uniformed officers, Evans has sought a court ruling to block the executive's budget-cutting plan.
Evans has also fought a budget plan adopted by the county board that seeks to impose much larger job cuts at the sheriff's department.
"There are definitely lessons to be learned (from the neighboring counties) but we can't change statutorily mandated provisions," Rombach said. "At the same time, we need to remember that this charter will stand for decades. We need to be mindful that we need a comprehensive and detailed document."
The 26-member Charter Commission's work is in full swing, with each of four committees mapping out schedules and plans to meet periodically. All sessions will be held in downtown Mount Clemens, at the county Administration Building, located at Cass and Main Street.
Across the street, the Charter Commission office has been established on the sixth floor of the old County Building.