In his State of the County Address on May 19, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter unveiled the Oakland80 initiative to get 80 percent of the county’s adults a college education or certificate training by 2030.
“We don’t need to wait for the end of this pandemic to build our future,” said Coulter. “We must start now. The Oakland80 program will get underway this summer and will fan out across the county to give residents the assistance they need to complete college credits or skilled training programs.”
Coulter outlined how the county will prioritize investing its $244 million share of the American Rescue Plan to build Oakland County’s future now. It will include addressing the needs that continue to exist for small businesses and nonprofit organizations, targeting investments in mental health and educational supports as students return to school in the fall, and helping women return to the workplace, all issues that became prevalent during the pandemic.
“We’ll look at partnerships to leverage the federal money to make strategic investments in key areas,” he said. “We’re going to target initiatives that build on Oakland County’s strengths, address our disparities, and prepare us for a strong future.”
Coulter also addressed the importance of criminal justice reform initiatives. By fall, as required by the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission standards, the assignment of defense attorneys will be independent.
The county executive stated his intention to establish a public defender’s office in Oakland County within the next two years to provide defendants with dedicated attorneys, who are solely focused on representing people who have been charged with crimes but can’t afford a lawyer. As part of Oakland County’s further implementation of the MIDC standards, he has tasked his administration to research the best public defender approach for the county.
The county executive updated viewers on the progress of other county initiatives such as Health360 with the opening of clinics in Oakland County Health Division offices in Pontiac and Southfield with partners Honor Health and the Oakland Livingston Human Services Agency, which will provide health care services regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Since opening in August last year, the program has provided services to 1,100 county residents.
“Expanding access to health care services throughout the county will continue to be a key priority for my administration,” Coulter said.
He also cited progress on equity with the appointment of a chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer and on the environment by creating with the Oakland County Board of Commissioners the new position of chief sustainability officer.