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Welcome to SEMCOG's Think Regional/Act Local blog! SEMCOG is the only organization in Southeast Michigan that brings together all governments to solve regional challenges and enhance the quality of life for the seven-county regions 4.7 million residents. With this regional perspective in mind, we work with member local governments to sustain our regions reputation as a great place to work, play, and do business.

 

Our panel of SEMCOG staff bloggers will post daily to this blog, discussing SEMCOG's data, federal and state legislative issues, and environmental and fiscal sustainability best practices for local governments all with the goal of creating a successful future for the region.

 

 

Think Regional/Act Local

Reinventing Inkster – from the ground up

(Maps, Public outreach, SEMCOG Member Services, Walkability bikeability) Permanent link

 

August 27, 2014 -SEMCOG is assisting the City of Inkster with a community engagement process (also known as a charrette) this week. Part of SEMCOG's contribution is a collection of community maps that give residents tangible information and a medium for input. This four-day effort will result in a revitalization plan for the city that engages residents; elected officials from the city, county, and state; city administration; and other community and business stakeholders at every stage of the process.

 

Michigan State University Extension is coordinating the effort and ensuring that the process includes and engages block clubs, community and business groups, faith-based leaders, and others who want to see the city rebound from its current challenges. Goals include creating value in the neighborhoods, connecting neighborhoods to retail areas, reclaiming Michigan Avenue as a place for transit and pedestrians, growing local jobs, and streamlining city services to provide value to residents and businesses.

 

Let’s celebrate Inkster’s 50th anniversary by supporting its leaders and residents as they build on the city’s rich history and assets such as its active churches, library, fire department, recreation center, golf course, and its strategic location on Michigan Avenue. This is an excellent example of proactive leaders making positive change happen – from the ground up. As Inkster Mayor Hilliard Hampton said during his welcome, the city could have developed its own plan but wanted to make sure that Reinvent Inkster was a plan that residents helped create.

 

SEMCOG has more information on engaging citizens to help inform decision-making. Here are some photos from the Inster charrette:

 

Knezek in Inkster
State Representative David Knezek

 

Hampton and others
Mayor Hampton with other leaders

 

Inkster residents with maps
Prioritizing feedback from residents

 

Inkster residents
More than 50 residents attended the Asset Mapping workshop

 

 

 

 

ÒNaheed
Naheed works with SEMCOG members on community and economic development and workforce issues. She coordinates the joint SEMCOG/MAC Talent Task Force, which develops policies and plans for creating the workforce needed for a changing economy. She also helps communities with strategic planning. Naheed has a MasterÕs degree in Public Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics.

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Celebrating (and financially supporting) the natural resources in Southeast Michigan!

(Environment, Green infrastructure, SEMCOG Member Services) Permanent link

 

August 26, 2014 -The natural resources of Southeast Michigan, particularly Lake St. Clair, had a really cool opportunity to shine last week. Representatives of the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board were in Macomb County to take a tour that had them on a bus, a boat, and on their feet. The tour showcased the natural resources being maintained by local authorities and shed light on opportunities to protect them and increase public access.

 

New Baltimore was the jumping off point for these tours – and, no surprise, they did a fantastic job of welcoming the board members. Amy Mangus, SEMCOG’s Plan Implementation Leader, has been talking about the exciting projects being planned and implemented in New Baltimore for awhile. New Baltimore is like many of those small towns right on a lake you might see when traveling around Michigan. The downtown has many new, hip restaurants and ends right at Lake St. Clair with a new transient marina, beautiful beach, and many local festivals.

 

Maintaining, restoring, and expanding publicly accessible natural resources in Southeast Michigan are key to sustainability, success, and quality of life in our region. Kudos to New Baltimore for their hard work in pursuing this goal!

 

MNRTFB

 

Amy
Amy has been with SEMCOG for over 20 years. Much of that time has been spent working the member relations beat. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring SEMCOG member communities are represented on SEMCOG's General Assembly, that these local officials are aware of SEMCOG benefits, and that they know how to access the benefits. She oversees the processes that govern the organization and assists members in participating on SEMCOG governing bodies. Amy has a Master's degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University.

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Here We Go

(Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

August 25, 2014 -Last Wednesday, the RTA finally got a CEO – Michael Ford. He has a proven track record of success throughout his career, most recently with the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) and I believe he is the right person for the job. Make no mistake, this is going to be a very challenging position. Expectations are high, funding is down, people want a better working transit system – NOW – not next year or the year after. Michael has his work cut out for him.

 

Michael Ford

 

At the same time, this may be a perfect storm sort of a situation. There are so many positive things happening and so many more positive feelings about the role of public transit in our region. Construction of M-1 is significant, in my opinion. We have talked about transit along Woodward for over 30 years and it is finally happening. Whether you are in favor or not, the M-1 project signals an end to talking and the beginning of building. Woodward bus rapid transit (or, BRT) is not too far behind and the RTA, under the guidance of Mr. Ford, will have recommendations on higher levels of transit in the Michigan Avenue and Gratiot corridors by early 2016, along with a new comprehensive four-county transit plan in the same timeframe.

 

It is going to be tight, but it is doable. Here are some important things Mr. Ford should focus on as he goes forward:

  1. Introduce yourself to the political and business leaders of the region and try to secure their support. They need to be partners. 
  2. Establish good and regular communication with leaders of DDOT, SMART, AAATA, and the Detroit PoepleMover. Coordination of systems should be a big part of the overall plan. 
  3. Talk to union leaders, let them know the game plan, and invite them under the tent to own the game plan. 
  4. Coordinate the messaging of the public transit interest groups to ensure they are working in concert with the RTA and not ahead or behind them. 
  5. Look for little victories to establish some immediate credibility. 
  6. Be visible in the community. 
  7. Listen to all points of view, but make up your mind. 
  8. Prioritize, you will not be able to solve all of the problems at once. 
  9. Be transparent. 
  10. Be honest.

Welcome Michael. SEMCOG pledges to help in any way we can. Let’s do it!

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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Spotlight on Chrysler Beach – Marysville, St. Clair County

(Environment, Green infrastructure, SEMCOG Member Services, Stormwater management) Permanent link

 

August 20, 2014 - My colleague and carpool partner Bill Parkus recently spent some time in Marysville talking with city officials about environmental projects that may be eligible for grant funding. While he was there he got a tour of Chrysler Beach where Marysville is investing in its St. Clair River waterfront!

 

One of few sandy beaches on the river, this location was once a proving ground where Chrysler outboard motors were tested. Bill was really impressed with the existing riverwalk and planned improvements, such as a St.-Clair-River-inspired playground area, fish cleaning station, concessions, and enlarged boat access. He took a picture of the beginnings of a rain garden – near and dear to us at SEMCOG. The rain garden will be both beautiful and functional ‒ filtering stormwater runoff from the parking lot which will improve water quality in the river and reduce beach closures.

 

After talking to Bill, I went to Marysville’s website and found the waterfront has additional features complementing the beach, including a large grassy area and a gazebo (good spot for freighter watching!). The website also notes that additional vegetation is being planted to deter geese congregation.

 

The close proximity we in this region have to “big water” like the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers and Lake St. Clair is special – get outside and enjoy nature!

 

 

ÒAmy
Amy has been with SEMCOG for over 20 years. Much of that time has been spent working the member relations beat. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring SEMCOG member communities are represented on SEMCOGÕs General Assembly, that these local officials are aware of SEMCOG benefits, and that they know how to access the benefits. She oversees the processes that govern the organization and assists members in participating on SEMCOG governing bodies. Amy has a MasterÕs degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University.

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The Power of Mother Nature

(Legislation, Regionalism, Stormwater management, Transportation) Permanent link

 

August 18, 2014 - Last Monday while driving home from a presentation in Birmingham, I saw something I have never seen before. There was so much water, creating so much pressure on the storm system that I saw a manhole cover literally explode out of the manhole! Incredible!

 

Monday was, indeed, an incredible day. I don't think I have ever seen so much rain in just a few hours. Each major piece of the public infrastructure system was taxed and pieces of each failed. The unprecedented rainfall severely impacted the road, storm and sewer, and electric systems, resulting in flooding in the streets and in many basements, as well as loss of electricity in some areas.

 

This situation was even worse on sections of the freeway, especially those below grade. Pumps are supposed to pump excess water out off the freeway, but many of the pumps either were overwhelmed by the volume of water or simply failed to work. Of course, I wonder where the pumps were supposed to pump the water to!

 

The result? Over 10 feet of water in some places. Water that covered several cars completely. By the way, the storm also knocked out electric service in several places which impacted the pumps on the freeway. I can't imagine having no electricity while watching water invade your basement. I feel so bad for so many people who had to endure that situation…and may still be.

 

The result? Cars totaled by their insurance companies, tons of bags of what used to be basement furniture, and personal things out on the street, people missing work to stay home and wait for help.

 

There have been several news stories about what happened and how we fix the situation. Mother Nature can display awesome power – power we cannot ever hope to totally mitigate. It is unreasonable to build an infrastructure system to address a storm of this size. A meteorologist said today that it was a once-every-500-years storm! However, it exposed the weakness in our public infrastructure system. We need to learn from this, prioritize improvements, and focus the resources we have on the most important improvements. We certainly need additional funding to improve the systems. We will never have the funds we need to fix everything, but we can make improvements over time.

 

It is our only chance to even begin to address the power of Mother Nature.

 

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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M-1 Progress

(Efficiency, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

August 11, 2014 - It has been quite a summer for large transportation projects in our region. First, there was the massive closing of the I-96 freeway from Telegraph to Newburgh. As the summer has progressed, so has this project. Now, in mid-August, it looks like the project is into the home stretch. Parts of the freeway in the west part of the corridor look to be nearing completion and you can envision the day in the near future when this freeway will be open for business.

 

A second large project has just begun – the reconstruction of Woodward Avenue from downtown to New Center as part of the M-1 Streetcar project. This is the first time Woodward has been reconstructed since it was originally built. Construction continues to progress as planned. In preparation for track installation, crews have removed pavement along Woodward from Campus Martius to Adams Street. To ensure accessibility to businesses during construction, walkways have been installed across Woodward Avenue.

 

M-1 Digger

 

As you can see from the picture, things seem to be progressing very nicely. While this project does not impact as many vehicles as the I-96 closure does, it does potentially impact the business community in downtown, commuters trying to get to work, and visitors to the Fox Theatre, Tiger games and Lions games. So far, so good. Things seem to be going smoothly. A road project and a transit capital project moving forward – when was the last time you could say that in our region?

 

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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Be SMART

(Legislation, Public transportation, Regionalism) Permanent link

 

August 4, 2014 -Tuesday, August 5 is a very important day. It is primary election day. There are many important decisions we have to make as citizens. Besides narrowing down the field of candidates for the election in November, there are several service issues on the ballot. One of the more important ones is the SMART millage.

 

SMART provides transit service in Macomb County and in parts of Wayne and Oakland. It provides essential transportation service to thousands of people every day taking people to work, school, medical appointments, and the grocery store. SMART has been working with fewer dollars for several years now and has done a great job of lowering their operating costs and running a very efficient service.

 

The SMART millage is currently 0.59 mills and they are proposing to raise it to 1 mill. The additional dollars will allow them to buy new busses which will increase their reliability and lower their maintenance costs. SMART may even be able to restore some of the service they were forced to cut as a result of declining revenue.

 

There has been lots of talk about some of the new, sexy transit capital projects like the M-1 Streetcar and bus rapid transit. Everyone wants to talk about these projects and no one is excited about improving the bus network. I can tell you that these more expensive, capital transit projects will fail if the basic bus networks provided by SMART and DDOT do not provide reliable transit service. You have a chance on Tuesday to not only improve SMART and provide service to thousands of people, but also help to ensure the success of the higher-level transit to come.

 

The choice is yours. Please vote for better transit. Vote in support of the SMART millage on August 5.

 

 

Carmine Palombo
If you want to know what about anything related to transportation in Southeast Michigan, don’t miss Carmine Palombo's blog. Carmine has more than 30 years of experience in various phases of transportation planning at SEMCOG. He is responsible for administering SEMCOG’s transportation planning program, which includes the region’s long-range transportation plan and short-term transportation plan.

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