League’s Dan Gilmartin Talks Flint Water Crisis, Infrastructure Issues at Congressional Briefing

Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin participates in a Congressional Briefing on the Flint Water Crisis and infrastructure issues in Washington D.C. Wednesday.

Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin participates in a Congressional Briefing on the Flint Water Crisis and infrastructure issues in Washington D.C. Wednesday.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin and fellow municipal leaders from across the nation called for a partnership between cities, states and the federal government to improve the country’s ailing infrastructure.

Gilmartin participated in a panel discussion at the Congressional Capitol Briefing earlier today (March 9, 2016) in Washington D.C. Gilmartin and the panel discussed national infrastructure issues and the Flint water crisis. Other scheduled panelists were Mayor Mark Stodola, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Councilmember Greg Evans, of Eugene Oregon; and Councilmember Andy Huckaba, of Lenexa, Kansas.

The panel also discussed whether federal policies are keeping pace with local efforts to reevaluate and reconfigure infrastructure for the next generation. More than 200 members of Congress and congressional staff attended the event at the Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium. The briefing is part of the National League of Cities annual Congressional City Conference concluding today.

In response to the Flint water crisis, the NLC on Tuesday announced a resolution that declared that the nation’s cities stand united in support of Flint. The resolution also included a call to Congress and the Administration to resolve the Flint Water Crisis. View the resolution here.

Here is an excerpt of the press statement about the resolution:

NLC is also calling on Congress and the administration to support robust funding for all water infrastructure mechanisms, including the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund programs and the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.

“The true tragedy is that the families-and children-impacted by the lead contamination in Flint will endure long-term education and mental health impacts,” said National League of Cities President Melodee Colbert-Kean, councilmember, Joplin, Mo.”The federal government must make a long-term commitment to help these families with the challenges that lie ahead.”

“The Flint drinking water crisis is unconscionable and unacceptable. Cites stand in solidarity with Flint, and the National League of Cities stands united with all American cities in the need to update our nation’s deteriorating water infrastructure,” saidNational League of Cities CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. “We must invest in the infrastructure our communities depend on. We need the federal government to step up, and work with cities to make sure there will never again be another disaster like in Flint.”

“The tragic events in Flint are a wake-up call for the nation. Policies that ignore critical infrastructure needs result in a shameful disinvestment in our cities, leading to problems like we are experiencing in Flint,” said Dan Gilmartin, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League. “The Michigan state government has shorted communities $7 billion in revenue since 2000. The Flint crisis is the latest result of this ruinous policy.”

Access to clean drinking water is fundamental for the health and well-being of America’s communities and families. Lead-contaminated drinking water can have permanent and long-term effects on mental health, IQ and development, particularly in infants and children.

There is an urgent need to invest in our aging water infrastructure nationwide. The EPA estimates the U.S. water infrastructure capital needs to be approximately $720 billion over the next 20 years.

View the full press release about the resolution here.

NLC is the nation’s largest and most representative membership and advocacy organization for city officials, comprised of more than 19,000 cities, towns, and villages representing more than 218 million Americans.

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

Michigan Leaders Outline Three Local Government Priorities for U.S. Congress

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, speaks to Michigan Municipal League members in Washington D.C. during the NLC Congressional City Conference Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, speaks to Michigan Municipal League members in Washington D.C. during the NLC Congressional City Conference Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

A contingent of Michigan local government leaders were in Washington D.C. today to meet with U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters on legislative priorities for local communities. The three priorities requested were in the areas of municipal bond tax exemptions; marketplace fairness and online sales tax parity; and transportation funding among other issues.

The Michigan contingent in Washington D.C. this week for the National League of Cities Congressional Cities Conference 2016 was led by League President and Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly; and League Vice President and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. Also attending were about 30 Michigan local government leaders, including Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Fenton Mayor Pro Tem and NLC Board Member Pat Lockwood; League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin and Summer Minnick, the League’s director of external relations and federal affairs.

The group has been meeting with various Congressional offices in the Capitol during their visit.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters meets with members of the Michigan Municipal League in Washington D.C. Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters meets with members of the Michigan Municipal League in Washington D.C. Tuesday, March 8, 2016.

Here are details on the three priorities presented:

  1. Continuing to have municipal bonds be tax exempt. The tax exempt status of municipal bonds is critical to investment in infrastructure and provides tremendous economic growth in our communities. Eliminating that exemption would harm the future development of critical infrastructure projects and the jobs that come with them. The group encourages the Michigan Congressional Delegation to reject any attempt to eliminate or limit the traditional tax exemption for municipal bonds.
  2. Support marketplace fairness and online sales tax parity. Last Congressional session, the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness Act with a vote of 69-27 in a bipartisan manner. This would have allowed state and local governments to collect an estimated $23 billion in online sales taxes, thus ending the online sales tax ‘break.’ However, to great disappointment, the House failed to act before session ended and we are starting over with new legislation this session. Gary Peters and Rosalynn Bliss edited-smallWhile exact estimates vary, Michigan stands to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from purchases that are avoiding the tax today. This session the bill, S. 698, is sponsored by Senator Enzi (R-WY) and has 22 co-sponsors. Within the past few weeks, Congress passed a bill to, among other things, prevent state and local governments from taxing internet access. As part of getting support needed for that bill, we understand that Senate leaders agreed to have a floor debate on the Marketplace Fairness bill later this year. By failing to pass legislation to bring tax equity in the retail industry, we are punishing those who have invested in our communities. Main Street retailers currently operate at a 5-10 percent disadvantage because they are required to collect sales taxes while remote sellers are not. And, we are leaving billions of dollars on the table which could be used to help invest in other areas for economic growth and/or reduce the deficit. Marketplace Fairness simply allows states and local governments to enforce existing sales tax laws. It does not create new taxes or increase existing ones. The Michigan contingent encourages passage of S. 698 for the benefit of our state and local economies.
    League President and Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly and the League's Summer Minnick meet with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.

    League President and Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly and the League’s Summer Minnick meet with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters.

  3. Increase funding for transit and multi-modal transportation. Last year, Congress passed and President Obama signed the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, making the first long-term transportation bill in a decade official. There are some wins for local governments within the new law, which is worth approximately $305 billion. However, while there are many positives with the FAST Act, there are still investment needs in our transportation infrastructure. Our nation must continue to make greater investments in transit and multi-modal transportation in order to be competitive worldwide. The Michigan contingent hopes that in having a conversation about increased investment in transportation that we can focus more on all users of transportation networks and not primarily on vehicle users. While the FAST Act was extremely helpful to local communities by providing some stability in transportation funding, the Michigan leaders request Congress for a long-term mechanism for increased funding must still be debated. Additionally, increasing funds for transit and multi-modal transportation is critical to the future prosperity of our communities.

Posted by Matt Bach, the League’s director of media relations, on behalf of Summer Minnick League’s director of external relations and federal affairs. Summer can be reached at sminnick@mml.org.

League CEO Dan Gilmartin to Speak at Congressional Briefing on Flint Water Crisis

Dan Gilmartin is interviewed during the NLC Congressional City Conference in Washington D.C. this week.

Dan Gilmartin is interviewed during the NLC Congressional City Conference in Washington D.C. this week.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin will participate in a Congressional Capitol Briefing Wednesday in Washington D.C. and talk about national infrastructure issues and the Flint water crisis.

Gilmartin will be part of a panel that will inform members of Congress about the most pressing infrastructure issues facing cities today. They also will delve into whether federal policies are keeping pace with local efforts to reevaluate and reconfigure infrastructure for the next generation. More than 200 members of Congress and congressional staff are expected to attend the event taking place 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at the Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium. The briefing is part of the National League of Cities annual Congressional City Conference happening this week.

Through his work with communities, Gilmartin is recognized as a national leader in the fields of urban revitalization, placemaking, local government reform, and transportation policy.  Model D Media has referred to him as “an urban thinker with an eye for the small, oft-unnoticed changes that can make ‘places’ out of streets and buildings.”  Dan serves as a member of the Michigan Future, Inc. Leadership Council and on the Placemaking Leadership Council.

Joining Gilmartin on the panel will be other local experts who will discuss the water crisis in Flint and what it means for federal-state-local relations nation-wide; contrasting state and local perspectives on accountability in the transit funding process; competing public and private interests in the broadband market; and differing federal and local points of view on infrastructure finance.

Other speakers include Mayor Mark Stodola, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Councilmember Greg Evans, of Eugene Oregon; and Councilmember Andy Huckaba, of Lenexa, Kansas.

NLC is the nation’s largest and most representative membership and advocacy organization for city officials, comprised of more than 19,000 cities, towns, and villages representing more than 218 million Americans.

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

Michigan Local Government Leaders Discuss Flint Water Crisis with EPA in D.C.

Flint Vehicle City SignThe Flint water crisis was on top of mind for a group of Michigan local government leaders who had the opportunity to meet with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy Monday afternoon (March 7, 2016) in Washington D.C.

A contingent of Michigan local government leaders met with the Administrator and Mark Rupp, EPA deputy associate administrator for intergovernmental relations, while in Washington D.C. this week for the National League of Cities Congressional Cities Conference 2016. The Michigan contingent was led by League President and Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly; and League Vice President and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. Also attending the meeting were Carolyn Berndt, the NLC’s program director for sustainability and federal advocacy; Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson; Flint City Councilmember Jacqueline Poplar; League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin; Summer Minnick, the League’s director of external relations and federal affairs; and Chris Hackbarth, the League’s director of state affairs.

A birds-eye view from Flint's amazing Farmer's Market.

A birds-eye view from Flint’s amazing Farmer’s Market.

As most are well aware, Flint is in the international spotlight after elevated blood lead levels were discovered in some Flint children after its water source was switched to the Flint River. It had been purchasing Lake Huron water from the Detroit Water and Sewer System (DWSD). The decision to switch to the Flint River was made while the city was being run by a state-appointed emergency manager. At the time of the switch state regulators never required that the river water be treated to make it less corrosive, causing lead from plumbing and pipes to leach into the water supply. Even though the city reconnected to the DWSD in October, local and state officials continue to warn the public about the ongoing problem, are continuing to distribute bottled water and filters, and are encouraging pregnant women and young children against using the water unless it has been tested because lead levels in some cases continue to exceed what can be handled by the filters.

The Michigan Municipal League Board of Trustees is bringing together a group of technical experts, public works administrators, city managers and local elected officials to discuss response strategies in the wake of the Flint crisis. This task force will discuss the overall link between the current crisis in Flint and Michigan’s broken municipal finance system. They will also develop a response strategy for all of our members to utilize when a resident or the media has questions about the safety of drinking water in their community.

Downtown Flint during the 2013 Back to the Bricks event.

Downtown Flint during the 2013 Back to the Bricks event.

The League believes that the issues we have seen in Flint, Detroit and other cities is a symptom of a larger problem. This isn’t just about replacing the lead pipes in Flint and saying “all fixed.” Certainly there is an immediacy to that issue that needs to be addressed and solved. But even with new pipes there are much broader issues that needs to be addressed. We must fundamentally change the way government operates. We should allow local government to maximize their opportunities to invest in themselves, control costs, and provide services deserving of a 21 century community. Until we allow this flexibility Flint and many other cities in Michigan and across this country will be limited in their ability to provide the foundation for a strong, thriving, diverse community.

As part of the meeting with EPA and Michigan officials vowed to work together to assist Flint and ensure something like this never happens again.

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

Time is Running Out: Tell Congress to Support the TIGER and Transit Programs in FY 2017

Congress is currently finalizing appropriations requests for FY 2017 and you have only one week to tell Congress to support TIGER and Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment programs.

Please consider supporting a fully funded TIGER and Capital Investment Programs by signing onto T4A’s nationwide support letter. Deadline: Friday February 26th, 2016.

  • Read and Sign Transportation for America’s TIGER and Capital Investment Program support letter.

The incredibly popular TIGER grant program is one of the few ways that local communities can apply for and win funds from the federal government for important priority projects of almost any kind. This important program gets the best locally-supported projects off the ground. In 2015, TIGER funded 39 projects in 34 states.

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

House Moves Gag Order Bill Despite Opposition

The Michigan House passed House Bill 5219 over to the Senate Tuesday afternoon on a 60-46 vote, following weeks of contentious debate over the original gag order provisions in PA 269/SB 571 and calls by the League and other local government organizations for a repeal of the offending language.

The changes made to the bill on Tuesday do nothing to address the contention by MML and others that there remains no justification for the gag order provisions originally adopted in December.  The attempts in this bill to bolt on new language to the already flawed and vague provisions from PA 269 do little to provide clarity and confidence to communities around the state as they seek to communicate with their residents about critical local ballot questions.

The bill now moves to the Senate for further consideration.  Please continue to contact your legislators, especially your Senator(s) and urge them to repeal the new language added to Section 57 by PA 269.

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

Bills Limiting Judgement Levies Scheduled for Hearing

Two bills designed to severely limit the use of judgement levies used by some municipalities to address costly court decisions have been scheduled for a committee hearing this week in the Senate Local Government committee.

Senate Bills 630 and 631 would amend the Revised Judicature Act and the General Property Tax Act to require that a court order resulting in a financial judgement against a municipality shall be paid from existing ad valorem property tax revenue or from the issuance of debt that must be authorized by a vote of the residents. Any additional taxes authorized by the voters would be subject to Constitutional or statutory limits, contrary to current law.  The new language would also prohibit the issuance of debt to repay any judgement for the recovery of money paid for a tax or other assessment that the court deemed was imposed illegally or improperly.

The League strongly opposes this proposal and urges members to contact their legislators to urge them not to eliminate this critical safety net for communities.

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

2016 Edition of Entrepreneurship Scorecard Released

The twelfth annual Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card – 2016 Edition was released this week and reports continued positive growth in the state’s entrepreneurial economy. The Entrepreneurial Change Index which measures the direction and momentum of growth ranks Michigan 12 out of the 50 states, up from 42 ten years ago.

Officials from MiQuest and the Small Business Association of Michigan have been invited to present the report’s findings to members of the House and Senate Commerce committees.

Among the insights from the Score Card:

– Michigan’s entrepreneurial climate has experienced exceptional gains since 2009, when Michigan ranked among the bottom states for key metrics such as Growth in Establishments Gaining Jobs and Export Growth. Michigan now ranks in the top 10 states for several growth-related metrics, with especially notable improvements in export-related metrics. Michigan’s top rankings include:

  • Growth in Establishments Creating Jobs – #10
  • Small Business Payroll Growth – #10
  • 5-year Establishment Survival Rate – #9
  • Industry Research & Development – #5
  • Proprietor Income Per Proprietor Growth – #3
  • Private Lending to Small Business − #2
  • Foreign Business Employment Growth – #8

– Michigan’s Quality of Life metrics point to several strengths conducive to economic mobility and tech growth, including ranking #5 in Home Ownership.

A full copy of the report can be read here.

MiQuest’s President Diane Durance said, “The Score Card rankings mirror what we’ve been hearing from entrepreneurs – businesses are growing and hitting new levels of sales, there’s a high demand for technical talent, and there’s increasing enthusiasm about the quality of life and opportunities in Michigan’s urban centers.”

The scorecard is sponsored by Clark Hill, Consumers Energy, Crain’s Detroit Business, DTE Energy Foundation, Michigan Municipal League, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Presidents Council – State Universities of Michigan, Small Business Association of Michigan, and Varnum LLP.

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

Transportation Asset Management Council Announcements

Michigan’s Transportation Asset Management Council recently made three important announcements.

  1. The Transportation Asset Management Council released a memorandum for 2016 data collection of Paved Non-Federal Aid Eligible (PNFA) Roads and Streets. The memorandum can be found at the following link. Memo_TAMC Reimbursement PNFA
  2. TAMC has  hired a new coordinator, Roger Belknap. For a copy of the press release announcing his hire click on the following link. TAMC Coordinator
  3. The 2016 Transportation Asset Management Spring conference will be held April 13, in Detroit. For more information please click the following link. Save the Date_2016 Asset Management Conference

If you have any additional questions about these announcement or other issues, please contact the new TMAC Coordinator, Roger Belknap, at (517) 373-2249.

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

Congress to President: Thanks, But No Thanks

Last week, President Obama released his last budget proposal. However, it got the cold shoulder from Congress with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) even going so far as saying that the budget is “a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hardworking Americans.” In fact, Congress has announced it has no plans to even consider it and the Budget Committees won’t entertain hearings from the White House on it, which is a break in tradition.

Congress has an abbreviated schedule this year, with the election looming. So, it will be interesting to see if they can prepare and negotiate their own budget, or if we can expect a less-controversial “Continuing Resolution” from the current year budget come this summer/fall.

Summer Minnick is the Director of External Relations and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at sminnick@mml.org or 517-908-0301.