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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

Undeserved bad rap

(Public outreach, Regionalism) Permanent link

How is it that elected officials and staff working for local governments have gotten such a bad rap? They’re greedy. They’ve got exorbitant salaries and benefits. They don’t give a damn about the taxpayer. They are only in it for their own personal gain.

 

Wrong, wrong, wrong! My decades of personal experience at SEMCOG working with literally thousands of local elected officials and local government staff paint a very different picture. The vast majority of elected officials with whom I have had the true pleasure of working are in local government for one reason and one reason only…they want to serve the public. And many of them are working at the pleasure of the voters with token or no salaries.

 

Local government employees exhibit a similar reality. The majority are working for relatively low wages with increasing cuts to their wages and benefits. They want to keep your streets safe, pick up the garbage, conduct efficient and fair elections, promote your communities, and address the needs of your businesses.

 

As taxpayers, we want and deserve a good return in services for our investment in taxes paid. We are asking our local government leaders to provide the same or more services with fewer tax dollars…fewer tax dollars due to declining property values. They are doing a great job cutting expenses with minimal impact on services.

 

Sure, there have been “bad apples” in local government and those receive lots of media coverage. But, let’s not forget the large majority of local government elected officials and staff who work hard every day to provide quality government services to us, giving us value for our tax dollars. Forget the bad rap. We should be thanking our elected officials and staff for jobs well done.

 

Paul Tait
Paul Tait joined SEMCOG in 1972 and has served in a variety of planning and administrative capacities – becoming Executive Director in 1998. This experience gives Paul a rich perspective on the past, present, and future of our region. Please join him as he blogs about issues of importance to the region’s local governments and residents.

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New normal for Detroit comparables

(Census, Data, Regionalism, Right-sizing) Permanent link

Comparable data from similar-sized local governments are typically used to analyze and benchmark the relative effectiveness of government services across the region. To that end, Southeast Michigan represents the 12th largest region* in the country as indicated in the list below, so we routinely associate and compare ourselves with the other regions our size like Atlanta or Minneapolis. Similarly, Detroit is the 18th largest city in the U.S., but with the shifts in population, we find ourselves among a whole new set of comparable cities as indicated below. Typically, we would not have grouped Detroit with Columbus, OH or Memphis, TN, for example.

 

This new normal for comparing Detroit, however, should not inhibit the city’s potential success, as the list includes several very successful cities with very well run local governments that hopefully will be benchmarked by city officials and the Financial Advisory Board as they strive to stabilize the fiscal situation, improve core services and redevelop the city as spelled out in the recent consent agreement.

 

Also included in the tables below are the surface area and population density for comparable metropolitan regions and cities. The data tends to debunk the theory that Detroit is too large for its population and the region has too much urban sprawl, as we are in the middle of the pack on both lists.

 

Rank

U.S. Metro Area*

Population

Area (sq. mi.)

Pop. Density

8 Miami, FL

5,564,635

1,116

4,986

9 Atlanta

5,268,860

1,962

2,685

10 Boston

4,552,402

1,736

2,622

11 San Fransisco

4,335,391

526

8,242

12 Detroit

4,296,250

1,261

3,407

13 Phoenix

4,192,887

799

5,248

14 Seattle

3,439,809

953

3,609

15 Minneapolis

3,279,833

894

3,669

16 San Diego

3,095,313

782

3,958

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rank

U.S. City

Population

Area (sq. mi.)

Pop. Density

14 Austin, TX

790,390

298

2,652

15 Columbus, OH

787,033

217

3,627

16 Fort Worth, TX

741,206

340

180

17 Charlotte, NC

731,424

298

2,454

18 Detroit, MI

713,777

139

5,135

19 El Paso, TX

649,121

255

2,546

20 Memphis, TN

646,889

315

2,054

21 Baltimore, MD

620,961

81

7,666

22 Boston, MA

617,594

48

12,867

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For no-cost assistance in dealing with your community’s fiscal challenges, contact Dave Boerger, SEMCOG Local Government Effectiveness.

 

*Based on the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) definition of Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

 

Dave Boerger
Learn how to navigate fiscal uncertainty by improving efficiency, fostering collaboration, and providing information on right-sizing. Through his weekly posts, Dave discusses legislative developments, best practices, and training opportunities.

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