Black Agenda for Oakland County
Criminal Justice Reform
The United States is home to 21% of the world's prison population with over 2 million people in prison or jail. Black people make up 14% of the U.S. population but are incarcerated at five times the rate White people are. Black people also receive harsher sentences.
We know that many police officers honor their oaths and are serious about protecting our communities. However, People of Color are disproportionately impacted by police brutality and racism. According to a Rutgers University study, 1 in 1000 Black men will lose their lives due to the use of force by a police officer, making them 2.5 times more likely than a white man to be killed by police. The risk was 1.4 times higher for Black women than White women.
With the collaboration of community leaders, I will take the following steps:
Implement a grant program for communities that establish independent civilian oversight mechanisms for police departments.
Establish a county-wide standard for use of force by police officers. Establish a county-wide zero-tolerance policy on racism, police brutality, discrimination, and association with extremist hate groups.
Call for thorough background checks for all police officers including reviews of personal social media accounts.
Reallocate funding toward police training on implicit bias, discrimination, cultural competency, and engaging with citizens who have cognitive or other disabilities.
Create a buyback program for military-grade weapons owned by local police departments.
Provide funding for body cams that include audio recordings. This will allow small and large communities to hold police officers accountable.
Invest in programs that facilitate inmate rehabilitation.
Participate in mental health, veterans, and drug treatment courts to reduce crime and incarceration rates.
Reduce mass incarceration by addressing low level, nonviolent offenses without jail time.
Call for the expungement of past marijuana possession charges.
Create a process that is independent of the County Prosecutor to investigate complaints against police officers.
Establish a Taskforce of community members and stakeholders that will focus on transforming our criminal justice system and preventing police misconduct.
Establish a county-wide standard for routine mental health screenings for police officers.
Communities of Color are more likely to experience pollution than White communities, even when families have the same or higher income levels. We all have the right to clean air, land, and water. To best position Oakland County, our state, and our world for the future, I will enact an aggressive, ambitious sustainability plan. Scientists agree that we don't have a moment to spare.
My administration will clearly articulate goals and track our progress towards them. This includes:
Hold companies accountable for environmental damage caused to communities.
Invest in green infrastructure and create jobs that will mitigate the effects of climate change in the communities most affected by environmental issues.
Replace lead-based service pipes throughout Oakland County. Provide affordable clean water and energy for all who need it and work towards preventing stormwater flooding.
Establish an office to assess our Greenhouse gas emissions and establish a plan to support the development of green businesses, green jobs, and green job training.
Commit to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from county facilities and operations by 2030.
Work with other governments, utilities, businesses, and residents to achieve the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from all sources within the county by 2050.
Replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.
Advocate for sufficient funding to inspect and clean up toxic sites.
Polluters will be held responsible for the cost.
Despite Oakland County being the wealthiest county in Michigan, many of our residents do not have affordable housing. There are over 4,000 homeless people in Oakland County and the rate of homelessness has been growing steadily over the past decade. Our inventory of low-income housing units is woefully inadequate to fill the need. Some are on a waiting list for affordable housing for up to ten years.
As Oakland County Executive, I will advocate at the state and local levels for solutions that include:
Prohibit landlords from asking current or prospective tenants about a criminal record (except those with a history of sexual assault.)
Require all landlords, regardless of whether or not they have a rental license, to follow established guidelines for eviction.
Increase funding to build affordable housing in communities across Oakland County.
Invest in affordable housing for police officers so that they can live in the communities they serve.
Black Homeownership and Entrepreneurship
There is a race gap in homeownership across this country. It's much more difficult for Black people to purchase a home. This is because Black borrowers are less likely to meet traditional credit standards set by lenders and tend to have more student loan debt. Black homeownership rates are nearly the same as when housing discrimination was legal. The deck is also stacked against entrepreneurs of Color. Often, they have less money to invest in their businesses and have more difficulty securing the same loans as their White counterparts.
I will start a small business fund to provide loans and grants to entrepreneurs of Color who have $100,000 or less in household wealth. This will help get more startup capital to People of Color in Oakland County, create more opportunities for People of Color, and better diversify of our small business community.
My plan will also:
Provide loans for Black residents that evaluate criteria such as on-time rent payments and utility bills during the approval process.
Encourage multi-family housing, which reduces the cost of homeownership.
Expand the Oakland County Treasurer's Financial Empowerment center to assist more black families with one-on-one financial counseling, starting and maintaining a small business, entrepreneurial coaching for returning citizens, and taxpayer assistance meetings.
Increase opportunities for black-owned businesses to obtain County contracts.
When I listen to people in every part of Oakland County, more than anything I hear concerns about people struggling to afford healthcare and prescription drugs. That's why I'm proposing the "Meisner Plan for Health and Wellness" to make healthcare and prescription drugs more affordable and accessible in Oakland County.
According to the League for Public Policy, Oakland County has 71,000 uninsured residents, including children, and we likely also have hundreds of thousands of underinsured residents suffering from over-priced prescription drugs, high deductibles, and junk coverage. The situation will become much worse if the election next year results in the elimination of the Affordable Care Act. We can't wait on Washington to solve the health care crisis.
We need to act now at a local level. This includes:
Build a countywide network of Oakland County Health and Wellness Centers, to make sure that every Oakland County resident receives the care they need close to home.
Provide primary health care for our uninsured and underinsured residents by building on the strength of our Oakland County Health Departments through a public-private partnership with local health providers, hospitals, and medical schools.
Provide mental health services at Oakland County Health and Wellness Centers. Provide wellness programs such as yoga, nutrition classes, and massage therapy at the Health and Wellness centers.
Tackle the problem of expensive and inaccessible prescription drugs by negotiating directly with the pharmaceutical companies to get greater savings through bulk purchasing for any County resident who wants to participate. With over 1.2 million people in our County, many who take prescription drugs, we can work together to lower our costs and increase access to life-saving medicine
Maternal and Infant Mortality
Addressing Maternal and Infant Mortality is a heart-wrenching problem throughout Michigan, and specifically in Oakland County. According to The Michigan Department of Community Health, the infant mortality rate is 2.9 times higher for a Black child than for a White baby in Michigan. The situation is even worse in Oakland County where Black infants die at a rate 3.5 times higher than white infants. In Oakland County, for every 1,000 live births of White children, 3.8 infants die. And for every 1,000 live births of Black children, a staggering 13.5 infants die.
These are steps we can take that will improve pregnancy and childbirth outcomes for everyone in Oakland County and help eliminate the inequity that Black families encounter.
Pressure hospitals and the healthcare industry to increase diversity amongst their staff so that workers look like the communities they serve.
Direct funding to Oakland County hospitals, medical schools, and other health professional education programs to eradicate implicit bias amongst healthcare professionals.
Create a task force responsible for looking into each maternal fatality. This will help us learn how to avoid fatalities and how to standardize maternal healthcare across Oakland County.
Increase parental leave for county employees from six weeks to twelve weeks. This paid leave would be available to every county employee, regardless of gender, after the birth or adoption of a child.
Continue to advocate for universal access to healthcare. This must include maternal health services like prenatal visits, managing postpartum depression, and monitoring hypertension.
Build affordable housing aligned with transit routes. Enable families to afford a place to live and to commute to quality healthcare services.
Build a regional mobility system that gets people where they need to go, and where they want to go.
Work with healthcare networks in Oakland County to implement a new pricing structure for expectant mothers that considers everything experienced from pregnancy through childbirth.
Create a mechanism to track patient care for an entire year after childbirth in conjunction with healthcare networks in Oakland County.
Integrate midwives into our healthcare networks. States that have done this have experienced better outcomes.
Early Childhood Education
Affordable early childhood education should be a right and not a privilege reserved for our wealthiest citizens. Early childhood education is an investment in the future. My plan will bring stakeholders together to ensure universal access to quality Early Childhood Education for every Oakland County kid, the best possible investment we make in our children during the most formative years of their brain development.
Education for All
In Oakland County, approximately 32% of Black people, compared to over 46% of White people have a Bachelor's degree or higher (https://www.towncharts.com/Michigan/Education/Oakland-County-MI-Education-data.html)
Every student deserves the same opportunity regardless of race or zip code. As Executive, I will work to establish "The Oakland County Promise" to ensure that every student in Oakland County can attend any Oakland County university, community college, or vocational program debt-free.
This agenda is a work in progress and will continue to be updated based on input and insight from black and maternal health activists, community leaders, organizers, policy experts, and stakeholders.