Michigan Municipal League, Chris Hackbarth Named Among Top Lobbyists in State

The Michigan Municipal League and our own Chris Hackbarth, state and federal affairs director, were both recognized this week for being among the top lobbyists in the state.

The recognition of the League and Chris making a real impact in Lansing politics was part of the 2017 Capitol Insider Survey done by MIRS News Service and EPIC-MRA. .

“It’s gratifying to see others recognize what we already know – that the Michigan Municipal League and our excellent staff does an outstanding job representing our members at the state level,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin. “It takes a lot of hard work, attention to detail and an enthusiastic and supportive membership to be effective in Lansing. Receiving this recognition shows that with the support of our members we are making a difference in Lansing.

The survey ranked the League in the top five in the category of “most effective membership organization” in the state.

In the individual category, Chris was also in the top five in the category of “most effective lobbyist for an association.”

“Chris is a real asset for the League, for our members and for Michigan,” Gilmartin said. “I’m extremely proud of Chris and his team and how we fight on behalf of our communities.”

The 2017 MIRS EPIC/MRA Capitol Insider Survey included completed responses from 479 legislators, lobbyists, staff members and other insiders in and around the state capital. It was conducted online from May 12, through May 19, 2017.

Governor Snyder Signs Recreational Authorities Bill with Support from Big Rapids and League

The League's Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (green tie) joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing HB 4578.

The League’s Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (green tie) joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing HB 4578.

Today, the Michigan Municipal League’s Chris Hackbarth and League Member and Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba joined Governor Rick Snyder in signing House Bill 4578.

The new law clarifies the use of tax proceeds by a recreational authority and is expanded to include school districts. Working in conjunction with officials from the City of Big Rapids, the League was successful in getting the legislation approved with support from bill sponsors Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; and Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac. View a previous blog about the legislation here.

The legislation, modeled on similar legislation from previous sessions, expands the definition of an eligible municipality to include a school district. This change also allows a city, village, or township to partner with a school district to form a recreation authority allowing broader access to recreation programming and facilities throughout a region.

Thank you to Mayor Warba and other Big Rapids area officials for their support on this bill! We also like to thank bill sponsors Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart; and Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and 734-669-6317.

Michigan League for Public Policy hosting forum on race and equity

Next month the Michigan League for Public Policy will host their annual forum, focused this year on Race, Poverty, and Policy:  Creating an Equitable Michigan.  Rinku Sen, the nationally acclaimed executive director of Race Forward: the Center for Racial Justice Innovation, will keynote the event which will bring together state and local policy makers, community leaders, business executives, and social and faith-based organizations for honest discussion about racial inequity and economic disparity.

As municipal leaders, are we playing a strong enough role in addressing racial inequity in our communities?  From our approach to policing, to our housing, land use, education, and employment policies, what we do impacts – and is impacted by – issues of race. This event offers a great opportunity for learning and conversation about how Michigan cities can make a positive difference.

The keynote address will be followed by five break-out sessions to choose from:

  • Solutions for cities in crisis
  • Government’s role in achieving race equity
  • The next move: taking equitable action for change
  • From watchdog to dog-whistle: media’s role in reporting on race
  • The business case for race equity

The Race, Poverty and Policy: Creating an Equitable Michigan event takes place Monday, October 10, 2016, from 1:00 to 4:30 at the Radisson Hotel (111 N. Grand Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933).  Learn more and register HERE.

Shanna Draheim is MML’s Director of Policy Development.  She can be reached at sdraheim@mml.org or 517-908-0307.

Michigan Investment in Municipalities Worst in Nation – By Far, Census Data Shows

The League's Anthony Minghine discusses revenue sharing during the news conference Monday afternoon.

The League’s Anthony Minghine discusses revenue sharing during the news conference Monday afternoon.

How bad is the municipal finance situation in Michigan? It’s the worse in the nation over the last decade, according to new data unveiled at a Michigan Municipal League news conference Monday, March 21.

And the culprit? State policies and politicians who have ignored the needs of cities, in the process damaging the state’s overall economy.

U.S. Census data shows Michigan is the ONLY state in the nation where municipal revenues overall declined from 2002-12 (the most recent information available).

Across the state, municipal revenues were down by 8.63 percent over that period, led by a 56 percent reduction in state revenue sharing.

Meanwhile, overall state revenues increased 39 percent. The numbers show that the state balanced its budget on the backs of cities.

The successful news conference was covered by multiple news outlets and also was live-streamed.

savemicity-large-websticker-72dpiView articles by the Detroit News, Gongwer, the Associated Press, Crain’s Detroit Business, the Detroit Free Press, MIRS News Service and WDET radio. The Free Press report is a column by Nancy Kaffer and does a particularly good job explaining the plight of cities.

You can see all the details at SaveMICity.org, a new web site the Michigan Municipal League has set up to provide information about the severity of the municipal finance problem facing Michigan, and offer solutions over time.

The website also has a new data base showing the revenue sharing dollar amounts diverted from every community in the state from 2002 to 2015.

More than $7.5 billion has been diverted statewide in that time period. Look up your community’s information here.

One of the many charts showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state. That tiny red line you see is Michigan.

One of the many charts showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state. That tiny red line you see is Michigan.

“Our cities are facing desperate conditions,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin.

And he pointed to “fundamentally flawed” state policies providing for municipal finance, including massive cuts in revenue sharing since 2002, limits on assessment increases, but none on decreases, and other punitive state policy decisions.

Across America, the statewide average increase in municipal revenues was more than 40 percent.

The state with the next worse municipal finance revenue growth was Ohio, and there revenue grew by 25.7 percent. Around the nation, the average increase was more than 40 percent.

League Associate Executive Director and COO Tony Minghine has been leading a task force of League members and staff in examining the situation and brainstorming solutions. Minghine explained at the news conference that state policies have led to “strategic disinvestment” by cities, as they struggle to balance budgets in the face of declining revenues. He asked rhetorically whether Flint might have been able to avoid its man-made water contamination catastrophe if it had received the $63 million in revenue sharing withheld by the state since 2002 as a part of state budget balancing.

Minghine said more revenue is just one part of the League’s plan to be laid out in coming months, to try to address the pressing situation. He said cities will ask for legislative approval to address cost issues and look at the structure of local services in ways that are today prohibited by state law.

Another chart showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state.

Another chart showing how Michigan has disinvested in its cities more than any other state in the state.

Wayne Mayor Susan Rowe showed how the situation is facing her city, which has seen revenue sharing cut by a cumulative $7.8 million since 2002 and has lost millions more in tax base due to decisions made at the state level regarding assessment practices. Wayne has laid off half its police force and still will run out of money in 2017. “We need the state to keep its promises to cities,” she said.

Mitch Bean of the Michigan Economic Consulting Group minced no words in putting the current plight of many cities on state policies. He pointed out that the combination of the Headlee Amendment to the state constitution and Proposal A allow assessments to drop during hard times, but limit their growth during good times. As a result, even a relatively well-off community like Farmington Hills, which saw assessments drop 30 percent from 2008 to 2012, will likely not see its tax base return to 2008 levels until 2025.

Why should state policymakers care about what they are doing to cities? Shanna Draheim of Public Sector Consultants, which has prepared a new report “Creating 21st Century Communities, Making the Economic Case for Place” said the result of these state decisions is that Michigan cities are lagging successful communities in attracting new talent. And that means the state is lagging in that vital category. You can see it in state personal income data, where Michigan has gone from a top 15 state to a bottom 15 state in per capita income since 2000.

Speakers during Monday's Michigan Municipal League press conference in Lansing. From left, Mitch Bean, Wayne Mayor Susan Rowe, Eric Lupher, Anthony Minghine and Dan Gilmartin.

Speakers during Monday’s Michigan Municipal League press conference in Lansing. From left, Mitch Bean, Wayne Mayor Susan Rowe, Eric Lupher, Anthony Minghine and Dan Gilmartin.

“States that have invested in cities are doing the best. They are growing economically. Michigan has the opportunity to do the same,” said Draheim.

But not unless we make some major changes to the state’s municipal finance policies, in a way that will let cities create the safe, walkable, fun locations that people want to move to. Until that happens, all of Michigan will suffer as the state’s economy sputters and fails to provide the public goods and economic opportunities that benefit all of us, whether we live in a big city, or rural township.

Matt Bach is director of media relations at the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org and (734) 669-6317.

Senate Committee Reports Bill To Expand Recreation Authorities

Michigan Municipal League members, including Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (right), testified in Lansing recently on an issue facing park and recreation authorities.

Michigan Municipal League members, including Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (right), testified in Lansing recently on an issue facing park and recreation authorities.

Working in conjunction with officials from the City of Big Rapids, the League was successful in getting Senate Bill 481 (Booher) reported from the Senate Local Government committee earlier this week.

The bill, modeled on similar legislation from previous sessions, would expand the definition of an eligible municipality to include a school district.

This change would allow a city, village, or township to partner with a school district to form a recreation authority allowing broader access to recreation programming and facilities throughout a region.

Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (left) testifies in Lansing.

Big Rapids Mayor Mark Warba (left) testifies in Lansing.

Language was added in this bill to address concerns raised previously about the need to clarify the appropriate use of any funds raised by an authority that included a school district.

Following a committee hearing in which Big Rapids city and school officials testified in support of the bill, the committee voted the bill out to the full Senate for consideration once they return from break in December.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304and chackbarth@mml.org.

League Distributes Letters to the Editor in Support of Transportation Funding Package

There are many transit options in Michigan and a complete transportation funding program would support all of them.

There are many transit options in Michigan and a complete transportation funding program would support all of them.

The Michigan Municipal League sent to the media this week a series of letters to the editor to encourage the state House to approve the transportation funding package passed in the Senate on Nov. 13. The House is considering a couple different transportation funding options and we want the state Representatives to show the same courage as the Senate and pass the comprehensive funding plan that includes HB 5477. Governor Snyder also supports this plan.

The letters were co-penned by people you might not normally see working together, but they’ve found common ground when it comes to getting additional funding to fix Michigan’s failing infrastructure. The letters maintained that increased funding is needed to all forms of transportation (roads, rails, trails, bridges, harbors, non-motorized facilities, and public transit) in order to help build communities where people want to live, work and play.

For example, we sent a letter jointly authored by East Lansing Mayor and MSU alum Nathan Triplett, vice president of the League board; and Ann Arbor Mayor and UM alum Christopher Taylor. The letter starts out with, “As mayors of East Lansing and Ann Arbor, when it comes to college sports there isn’t a whole lot we agree on. But when it comes to the pressing need for increased investment in our state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure, we are in total agreement: the time for legislative action is now.”

Other letters were written by the presidents of the Michigan Municipal League Board (Wakefield Mayor Pro Tem Dick Bolen) and Michigan Townships Association Board (Arcada Township Supervisor Doug Merchant); and the mayors of two Michigan cities that are more than 640 driving miles apart – Ironwood’s Kim Corcoran, a member of the League board, and Luna Pier’s David Davison.

We are already getting some traction in the media from the letters so stay tuned to mml.org for links and information about that as it happens. Check out the letter by Triplett and Taylor in the Lansing City Pulse and the letter by Corcoran and Davison in the Battle Creek Enquirer, the Macomb Daily Tribune and the Detroit News.

We’re also encouraging our members to contact their state Reps this week to ask them to approve the package passed in the Senate. You can go here to our Action Center to look up your Reps’ contact information and send them a sample email we’ve prepared for you.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 734-669-6317 and mbach@mml.org.

 

Smart Growth America Offering a Limited Number of Technical Assistant Workshops

Is your community interested in creating vibrant, walkable neighborhoods, but not sure where to start?

Smart Growth America’s technical assistance workshops can help. Our experts can work with your community to understand your goals, show how development strategies can help achieve goals, and provide ideas to make it happen.

Each year Smart Growth America offers a limited number of these workshops at no charge, and we’re proud to announce that applications are now open for our 2015 free technical assistance workshops.

Now in its fourth year, our free technical assistance program has helped over 50 communities grow in ways that benefit residents and businesses while protecting the environment and preserving a sense of place.

Visit our website to learn about this year’s opportunity, including the types of workshops available and information about how to apply. Applications are due by October 23, 2014 at 5:00 PM EDT.

For more information or to apply click here.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation and infrastructure issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303

Michigan Municipal League Staff Help Prepare Detroit City Council for Future After Bankruptcy

Detroit City Council MML Meeting

Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones introduces League CEO Dan Gilmartin at a recent education session.

Michigan Municipal League staff has spent the last few weeks working with Detroit City Council members as they move forward and prepare to bring the city out of bankruptcy. League staff has led education sessions on a variety of topics, including the importance of placemaking, city finance and financial management, parliamentary procedure, legislative advocacy and other areas.

“We wanted to do this to help create a good foundation on which they can build as the city moves out of bankruptcy,” said Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin. Gilmartin was the first person from the League to meet with the city council in sessions that started July 14 and expected to wrap up later this month.

Gilmartin gave an overview of what the League does for its member communities and he discussed the concept of placemaking and why it is key to the revitalization of not only Detroit but to all of Michigan. In essence, placemaking is about creating communities in which people want to live, work and play. Detroit already has many outstanding placemaking examples.

The League’s Anthony Minghine, associate executive director and COO, spoke to the council about a variety of municipal finance topics. Several hours were spent laying a foundation upon which the council can use as the bankruptcy ends and the emergency manager prepares to leave. The dialog that took place made clear that the council is preparing for a new day and setting new expectations for reporting and management of the budget. Topics covered included Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) pronouncements, fund types, allowable expenses, understanding financial statements, municipal budgeting, and long range planning considerations.

Other sessions were on lobbying 101; planning and zoning; legal framework of municipalities by the League’s General Counsel William Mathewson; and roles and responsibilities.

Kelly Warren, the League’s director of events, said the goal of the sessions were to give Detroit leaders the core lessons taught through the League’s Elected Officials Academy (EOA) program. Go here for more information about this EOA program.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at mbach@mml.org.