The Nashville Experiment and How Michigan is Still in Retreat

Michigan continues to fall behind in the race to attract talent. While our lawmakers continue to talk about tax cuts and regulations other states are investing in what really matters – communities.

Interesting article here in CityLab about Nashville, Tenn., efforts to building what would be an amazing public transit system. Definitely worth checking out. There are a lot of similarities to what Nashville experienced in sending a transit question to voters and the ongoing local control battle here in Michigan.

Here’s an excerpt:


Nashville Mayor Megan Barry announced a massive transit overhaulfor the city earlier this month—one of the boldest municipal projects in recent memory, and easily the biggest in Nashville history. The $5.2 billion plan would introduce 26 miles of inlight rail across four new lines, four rapid bus lines, expanded bus service for existing routes, a major downtown tunneling project, and some two dozen transit centers across the city.

Let’s Move Nashville”goes up for a referendum vote in May 2018. Over the next 7 months, residents of the consolidated Nashville–Davidson County area will debate a goliath project that calls for increases to four taxes in order to pay for a metro transit dig that will run through 2032.

The lion’s share of the proposal would be paid for by a one-half percent increase to the sales tax in Nashville, starting in July 2018, which will jump to a full 1 percent in 2023. That’s a tall order, even for liberal Davidson County. But the biggest obstacles to the mayor’s vision of a comprehensive city transit scheme—one pitched as the root of a regional transit rethink—may already be behind the city.

The real genius of “Let’s Move Nashville” is in the way that the city won state support for long-term local planning initiatives.

Read the full article here:

As part of our SaveMICity initiative, Anthony Minghine, COO and Deputy Director of the Michigan Municipal League, has explained in meetings throughout the state that Michigan ranks 50th in the nation in investment into its communities. He said since 2002 revenues to communities went down 56 percent while revenues to the state went up 27 percent. During the Great Recession, the state balanced its own budget on the backs of local governments.

Local governments have cut their budgets to the bone in recent years and seeking additional financial help from the voters is becoming more and more of a last-resort option. A key part of the problem is the fact that the state’s system for funding cities and villages does not track with economy and as a result communities continue to struggle even as the economy rebounds, Minghine said.

We need to start investing in our communities, but we still seem to be in retreat mode in Michigan.

Matt Bach is director of communications for the League. He can be reached at