We had a great event Tuesday evening talking in Flint about the state’s broken system over the way it funds and supports Michigan’s communities.
About 70 community leaders, business officials and residents attended the Save Michigan Cities event that was organized by the Michigan Municipal League. Event participants were U.S. Congressman Dan Kildee, Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson, Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman, Ypsilanti Mayor Pro Tem Lois Allen-Richardson, League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin and League COO and Associate Executive Director Anthony Minghine. We also had news coverage of the event from four local TV stations – ABC 12, WNEM TV 5, WEYI TV 25 and Fox 66.
Minghine kicked off the event with a discussion about the broken system and ways to fix it. He explained and how the state has diverted more than $7.5 billion in revenue sharing dollars from Michigan communities since 2002. Minghine showed data illustrating that Michigan is the only state in the nation to invest less in its communities between 2002 and 2012. (View the chart here: http://www.savemicity.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/census.pdf)
“Flint is not an anomaly. It is a warning,” Kildee explained.
Mayor Waterman discussed the dramatic cuts made in her community and how emergency managers cut or sold off multiple programs, facilities and services that residents rely on.
Allen-Richardson discussed how a recent millage request in her community was defeated by just 40 votes and now the community is making cuts to a large variety of services. Both Waterman and Allen-Richardson said their cities would not be in the situation they are in had the state not diverted millions of dollars in revenue sharing away from their communities.
The event at the beautiful auditorium at Mott Community College’s Regional Technology Center (RTC) is part of the League’s ongoing effort to inform people throughout the state about Michigan’s broken system of funding municipalities.
Great places make for a strong economy, and the research supports that contention. By employing community-based placemaking strategies, we strengthen both our economic and social future. The Michigan Municipal League believes that at the heart of great places are strong cities. Across the country, cities account for over 80 percent of GDP, but in Michigan we have failed to invest in this vital resource.
After years of working within the existing paradigms, the League is undertaking a major legislative and policy push aimed at reforming municipal finance in Michigan to encourage renewed investment in our communities. This is intended to be an examination of how we can do things differently in Michigan to assure that local government can’t just survive, but can thrive. To that end, the League will be developing policy recommendations around three themes: Cost Containment, Revenue Enhancement, and Structure of Government.
We are taking this approach to break away from the historically limiting tactic of incremental change within the context of where we are today. We need new ideas, innovative approaches, and bold action to create a new future for communities around Michigan.
Is this an issue that you care about and would like to have a discussion about locally? The League will work with you to plan an event in your hometown with community groups, local chambers of commerce, local media, etc. Just contact us and we will provide resources and/or a speaker to help foster the discussion.
More details about our saveMIcity work which can also be viewed at saveMicity.org. View addition photos from the Flint event here.
Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (810) 874-1073.