LANSING - News sources confirmed today that Republican bills which reduced Oakland County Commission seats from 25 to 21 members were done solely to allow the GOP controlled body to redraw court mandated district lines in their favor. Republicans had insisted that their motives were to save taxpayer money, but emails obtained from the Freedom of Information Act, show that was not the case.
Oakland County Republican representatives most active in the conspiracy were Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake Township) and Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy). According to Gongwer News Service, Rep. Kowall made it clear that Democratic control of the commission where the Republican majority has been dwindling must be avoided at all costs stating, “We have plenty of examples of what the Dems have tried to do and would do if they gain power. They would ruin (Oakland County) and destroy what decades of exemplary leadership took to build.” Both Kowall and Knollenberg were commissioned to lobby their caucus in support of the legislation.
But Representatives from Oakland County believed the Republican’s bill was an illegal power-grab from the beginning. “This unprecedented Republican abuse of the system has been transparent from the second they introduced it, said State Representative Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills). “We expected certain members of the Republican caucus were conspiring to undermine the redistricting process in Oakland County and these emails definitively prove that, yes, they were. I find it quite ironic that Representative Kowall believes that the Democrats would undo ‘exemplary’ leadership when we can clearly see that their leadership is despicable.”
The Republican law changed Oakland County’s process for redrawing its districts from having the work done by a commission consisting of three countywide elected officials and the chairs of the Democratic and Republican county parties to the Republican-led board itself. Democrats for the first time held a majority of the reapportionment commission. Republicans objected to their maps, which were ultimately upheld by the courts, leading the Republican-led Legislature to pass the legislation in question.
Emails also indicate that the staff working on the bill were well aware of the potential lawsuits stemming from the fact that it is a special local act that only applies to Oakland County. This belief was shared by the Democrats. The Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the legal challenge to the law on Wednesday.
“I felt that this was their goal all along. They insisted that it was being done to save money,” said State Representative Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga), Democratic Vice Chair of the Redistricting and Elections Committee. “This is a blatant abuse of power and something that Oakland County residents and all Michiganders should take note of. Their elected officials have used them, as taxpayers, as a cover-up to maintain state and local control by sidestepping what is democratic and right.”