Download the Convention program here.

During Convention, you will have the opportunity to choose from the list of topics shown below. Each session is designed to enhance your knowledge and provide you with ideas that you can take home and apply in your own community.



Confessions of a Civic Engagement Luddite

There is a cornucopia of online services and mobile apps promising to engage citizens with government. We’ll investigate their functions and intentions, and explore ways they are under-utilized, misused, and sometimes used against their intended purpose. Then we’ll discuss simple, free tools that support 21st century citizenship in your community.


Scott TenBrink, Community Project Manager, Citizen Interaction Design


The Little City That Could

The water crisis in Flint has focused national attention on the results of decades of local, state, and federal neglect of critical water, sewer, roads, and bridges infrastructure. Right next door, the City of Burton has been facing the same economic challenges as Flint and other cities across the state. But by challenging entrenched thinking, “the little city that could” won the approval to use Open Source Procurement, and ultimately to introduce the use of C909 PVC water mains to the Genesee County-approved design specifications. To date, PVC pipes have been used to replace over 80,000 feet of the City’s oldest, most costly to maintain, cast and ductile/cast iron water infrastructure. By aggressively seeking state and federal programs for grants, low interest loans, and principal forgiveness, the city has been able to magnify its own limited resources to update much of its water and sewer infrastructure and many of its roads, saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.


Bob Slattery, DPW Director, City of Burton


Dima El-Gamal, PHD, PE, LEEP-AP, Senior Associate, Stantec
Dave Marshke, Utilities Superintendent, City of Burton
Rik Hayman, Chief of Staff to the Mayor, City of Burton


Self-Driving Cars are Coming: How Do We Prepare Our Communities?

Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) are all over the news, with driver-assistance features like “smart” cruise control and navigation already being included in new vehicles. So far, though, very little is known about the impacts on our downtowns and neighborhoods and how we should plan for them. Join us in a facilitated discussion to share your thoughts and concerns about what we need to know to prepare our communities for the widespread use of CAVs. Your discussion will support research work by the League and our partners.


Valerie Sathe Brugeman, Senior Project Manager, Center for Automotive Research
Rachel Kuntzsch, President/CEO, Kuntzsch Solutions, Community & Economic Development Consultants
Richard Murphy, Program Coordinator, Civic Innovations, Michigan Municipal League


Get the Lead Out

Presented by Fleis VandenBrink

Flint opened their eyes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now estimates that there are over seven million lead service lines in municipal systems in our country today. Any communities with homes built prior to 1950 need to be concerned. Learn more about ways to identify the lead in your system and what can be done to avoid human exposure to dangerous water supplies. Who is financially and legally accountable – municipality and/or homeowner?


David G. Johnson, CHMM-CP
Paul R. Galdes, PE


Bike Network v2.0: Getting There from Here

Presented by McKenna Associates

Whether your community has a bike plan, wants a bike plan, or rolled straight into building infrastructure, it might be time to take another look at your bike network. This session will discuss how to plan for successful and actionable bike infrastructure (on a budget) as a sub-plan, corridor plan, or part of the Master Plan. We’ll look at tools and rules for project implementation and discuss strategies for getting the network on the ground. The presentation will feature lessons learned from recent Michigan bike planning projects including Bike/Walk Livonia, Village of Paw Paw: Downtown Streetscape Evaluation, and others.


Paul Lippens, AICP, Principal Planner, McKenna Associates



Millennials as Local Government Leaders

The next generation of local government leaders—millennials—often get a bad rap. Pinned as lazy, entitled, unable to communicate and coddled by their parents, millennials are often stereotyped as unfit for leadership positions. This session is framed to help current and future local government leaders better understand millennials and how most defy these overplayed labels. Further, this session will help cities learn how to hone the different but important skills held by millennials and their more seasoned counterparts in order to produce an accepting and forward-thinking work environment.


Sarah Craft, Program Coordinator, Civic Innovations, Michigan Municipal League


Rosalynn Bliss, Grand Rapids Mayor and 2016-17 President, Board of Trustees, Michigan Municipal League
Bridget Doyle, Community Relations Director, Sterling Heights
Kirsten Wyatt, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Emerging Local Government Leaders


Reforming Michigan’s Municipal Finance System

Sponsored by Garan Lukow Miller, PC

Michigan’s municipal finance system is broken, and the League has made reforming this system our top legislative and policy concern. This session will discuss the profound deficiencies and limitations of our system, as well share our current thoughts and ideas for possible reform.


John Gillooly, Attorney, Garan Lukow Miller, PC


Anthony Minghine, Associate Executive Director & COO, Michigan Municipal League
Chris Hackbarth, Director, State and Federal Affairs, Michigan Municipal League


Case by Case: Hot Legal Topics

This session will address three important issues that are–or will be–affecting your municipality. First, the Bolt decision, even years later, continues to impact how local governments cover necessary costs through fees. The typical legal challenge is a claim that the fee is really a tax and thus must be put to a vote. Second, numerous court cases have interpreted Michigan’s medical marijuana law. What you can and cannot control, and how, will be described. We’ll also present a preview of possible legislative changes and a ballot proposal to allow recreational use of marijuana.  Third, special assessments can be an essential financing tool for municipalities. The latest legal techniques and related financing options will be covered.       


William Mathewson, General Counsel, Michigan Municipal League


Michael E. Fisher, Chief Assistant City Attorney, City of Livonia
Steven D. Mann, principal, Miller Canfield, Detroit; City Attorney, City of Milan
Sonal Mithani, Principal, Miller Canfield, Ann Arbor


Creative Approaches to Engaging the Community

As a follow-up to the Wednesday keynote, join this session to learn about successful community engagement partnerships in Kalamazoo and Hazel Park. In Kalamazoo, the Land Bank Authority has taken a number of creative approaches to include residents, business owners and institutional leaders in the revitalization of an historic business district. Hazel Park was one of four pilot communities who embarked on a unique project with the Congress for the New Urbanism in spring 2016. Learn about low-cost, effective strategies to broaden the conversation in your community.


Luke Forrest, Director, Civic Innovations, Michigan Municipal League


Jeff Campbell, Assistant City Manager, Community Development Director, Hazel Park
Kelly Clarke, Executive Director, Kalamazoo County Land Bank
Ed Klobucher, City Manager, Hazel Park


Regional Transit Revs Up in Metro Detroit

Sponsored by McKenna Associates

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority released their master plan this summer, and hope to pass a millage on November 8. If funded, the RTA would create high-quality rapid transit linking metro Detroit, expanding job access, increasing independence for seniors, and supporting talent attraction efforts. Join representatives from the RTA and A Coalition for Transit (ACT) to talk about what’s planned and how your community can take advantage of the upcoming transit options.


John Jackson, ACIP, McKenna Associates


Michael Ford, CEO, Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan
Susan Pollay, Executive Director, Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority



Attracting & Retaining Volunteers

Volunteers are critical for the implementation and review of development, led by staff. By this we mean volunteers that participate on the boards and commissions of a community. It is important that communities provide the boards/commissions application online along with some desired skill sets, provide continuing education for those volunteers, and track trainings participants attend. The development process is much more difficult if there are not qualified and capable volunteers willing to serve on these boards/commissions. It is important for volunteers to have a good understanding of what they are committing to before just being placed on a board/commission.


Cathleen Edgerly, Executive Director, Howell Main Street/DDA

From Out of the Shadows to Your Financial Statements: Reducing Retiree Health Care Costs

Please join attorneys Howard Shifman and Brandon Fournier as they delve into the labyrinth of public sector retiree health care. The presentation will include a discussion on the current legal landscape, developing trends and practical strategies that may be available to communities as they work to reduce their outstanding post retirement obligations.



Brandon Fournier, Attorney, Howard L. Shifman, PC
Howard Shifman, President & Founder, Howard L. Shifman, PC


Legislative Update

Sponsored by ROWE Professional Services

The League’s State and Federal Affairs team will discuss current issues and what’s on the horizon for the Legislature this fall including hot topics like transportation, municipal finance, and federal issues and how the upcoming election and lame duck session could influence that agenda.


Jack Wheatley, ROWE Professional Services


Chris Hackbarth, Director, State Affairs, Michigan Municipal League
John LaMacchia, Assistant Director, State Affairs, Michigan Municipal League
Jennifer Rigterink, Legislative Associate, Michigan Municipal League


How to Govern in 140 Characters or Less
#itcanbedone #letsjoin

Sponsored by McKenna Associates

News travels fast — and social media travels even faster. Especially as “always-on” social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and NextDoor become a primary or singular source of information, local leaders often find themselves reactively responding to concerned residents who made up their minds based on third-hand tweets and barely-read Facebook shares. In this session, we discuss real world examples (both good and bad) along with practical techniques for effectively communicating, governing, and leading in the age of social media. We explore proactive approaches that city administration and staff should consider, and discuss how elected leaders can meaningfully engage while complying with the Open Meetings Act.


John Jackson, AICP, McKenna Associates


Steven Baker, Mayor Pro Tem, Berkley


Energy Efficiency and Budget Relief

Presented by Opterra Energy Services

Employing energy efficiency strategies provides a multitude of benefits to communities. These strategies can boost your bottom line while improving the environment and your community as a whole. In this session, you’ll learn how energy efficiency can impact everything from energy and operational savings to greenhouse gas reduction, and the safety, health, and civic engagement of your residents.


Scott Adkins, City Manager, Roseville


Kenneth Hedrick, Director Business Development, Opterra Energy Services