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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.

 

Meet SEMCOG's Blogging team:

Amy Mangus
Member Services
About Amy . . .
Read Amy's past posts

Dave Boerger
Government Efficiency
About Dave . . .
Read Dave's past posts

Bill Anderson
Local Government Revenue
About Bill . . .
Read Bill's past posts

Carmine Palombo
Transportation
About Carmine . . .
Read Carmine's past posts

Xuan Liu
Data & Demographics
About Xuan . . .
Read Xuan's past posts

Grant Brooks
Public Outreach
About Grant . . .
Read Grant's past posts

 

 

Think Regional/Act Local

Good start, long way to go

(Census, Data) Permanent link


Yesterday (May 30, 2012), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published the latest unemployment numbers. The Detroit region posted the nation's largest unemployment rate decrease in April compared with the same time a year ago. The unemployment rate in the region fell from 11.1 percent in April 2011 to 8.7 percent this April.

 

Unemployment Rates, 2000-2012, Southeast Michigan and U.S.

UnemploymentRates2000-2012

 

The trend of unemployment rate changes is shown in the above chart. Unemployment in Southeast Michigan rose with the advent of the last decade’s first recession in 2001. While the nation recovered from that recession, Southeast Michigan did not. Continued restructuring of the domestic auto industry kept the unemployment rate around seven percent. With the 2008-2009 recession and the automotive bankruptcies, Southeast Michigan’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 15.9 percent – much higher than the U.S. average of 10.2 percent in 2009. Since then, the unemployment rate in Southeast Michigan has been falling at a faster pace than the U.S. average.

 

While the unemployment rate drop is a welcoming sign for our region’s economic recovery, there is a long way to go to where we need to be. First, the jobless rate decrease has been largely due to the reduction in the labor force, meaning that many working-age people moved out or stopped looking for jobs. Second, it will take time for the benefit of the jobless rate decrease to trickle down to the economic well-being of a lot of people. The impact of the decade-long recession on the region’s population is no more evident than in the decline of wealth. The region experienced approximately a $16,000 decline (or 25 percent) in median household income and more than a $6,000 decline (or 20 percent) in per capita income from 2000 to 2010. Southeast Michigan residents have much less money to support themselves, their families, and a region in need of crucial public service and infrastructure improvements. That is a reason why we say we should keep a “balanced optimism.”


 

Xuan Liu
Interested in knowing how SEMCOG’s data impacts local governments and residents in Southeast Michigan? Then, you’ll want to read Xuan’s weekly posts.

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Don’t forget the marketing…

(Best Practice, Public outreach, Regionalism) Permanent link


Today, Macomb County premiered its new campaign and Web site, Make Macomb Your Home. Congrats to the county for realizing that marketing the county is not a “nice to do,” but a “must do.”

 

As I visit Web sites and social media sites from our communities around the region, marketing the community still feels like a “nice to do,” but that is changing. The City of St. Clair Shores recognizes this with their use of Facebook. They have over 8,000 followers of their page.

 

I would encourage you to jump on board the marketing train.

 

At the same time, let’s make sure our marketing strategies link.

 

For example, Macomb County includes the importance of the Blue Economy in their marketing of the county. How is the Blue Economy marketed by other local communities? In some cases, can we have consistent messaging across the region for the Blue Economy? That’s one area SEMCOG is researching in the development of our Green Infrastructure Vision for Southeast Michigan.
Stay tuned. There’s strength in numbers. Marketing our Blue Economy is just one example.

 

Amy Mangus
You can leverage your SEMCOG membership to help your local government become more sustainable and effective. Amy’s posts will focus on SEMCOG’s member services.

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2012 EVIP grant deadline is June 15

(Collaboration, Efficiency, Regionalism, Right-sizing, SEMCOG Member Services) Permanent link

May 29, 2012 — The June 15th deadline for communities to apply for a 2012 shared service grant as part of the Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP) is fast approaching. Click this link from the State Treasury for more information. Note that all communities, whether EVIP eligible or not, can apply. Plus, we can provide no-cost help facilitating shared service arrangements among a group of communities.


Fire and EMS comparables
We’ve been working to improve the efficiency of fire and EMS services with a number of communities on the following list that indicates cost per capita for fire and EMS services. For example, the City of Warren was able to enhance cost recovery for transporting EMS patients to the hospital by $2.3 million, more than offsetting the incremental costs by almost 4:1. Plus, we’ve assisted several member communities, including Ferndale, Bloomfield Hills, and Oak Park evaluate their public safety departments (combined police and fire services). How does your community’s fire/EMS department stack-up?


SEMCOG member communities can contact Dave Boerger for more information or no-cost assistance regarding these topics

 

Cost of fire protection

 

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

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Financial crisis: Coming to a city government near you

(Collaboration, Efficiency, Legislation, Right-sizing) Permanent link

May 29, 2012 — On May 20, the Detroit Free Press featured an editorial with the headline, “Financial Crisis: coming to a city government near you.” It was right on target…and not just because I was quoted in it.

 

I don’t have to belabor the fiscal challenges our local governments face…lower property values, reduced state shared revenue, Proposal A and Headlee imposed limits on returning to previous property tax revenues (even as property values rise), as well as daunting legacy costs. Further, we have yet to see the likely impacts of repeal of the industrial portion of personal property tax. Tough times for local governments.

 

Despite this bleak picture, I remain encouraged. Why?

  • The economy is recovering, albeit slowly.
  • Local government leaders have demonstrated great courage in making the difficult decisions to balance their budgets…frequently taking never-popular cuts in government services.
  • Local leaders are increasingly embracing jointly providing services or outsourcing the delivery of certain services to their neighbors or their counties.
  • And, very importantly, despite the fiscal challenges, local leaders are finding opportunities to invest in sense-of-place improvements to make their communities more attractive to businesses as well as younger, talented professionals…both important to our long-term economic prosperity.

The future? I see three critical pieces of the puzzle that will take us to sustainable, prosperous government. First, we, as taxpayers, need to renew our appreciation for the services we receive from our local governments. Somehow, government has gotten a bad name. It is viewed as a sinkhole for our tax dollars, not the provider of services for the public good and my individual good. We should value quality police, fire, waste collection, building inspection, elections, etc. Second, we need to reinforce courageous decisions by our elected officials to be responsible, to take the steps necessary to balance their budgets. We need to get beyond criticizing elected leaders for unpopular actions and reward them for doing what is needed. And third, as called for in the Free Press editorial, we need to convene a solution-centered group to direct a fix for a broken system of funding local government.

 

Yes, leaders will have to continue to trim expenses. In the long run, however, if we truly believe that local government plays an important role in our long-term prosperity, we need adequate funding. Our future depends on all these pieces.

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. Paul is also president of SEMCOG’s partner organization – the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition (MAC) – a coalition of business, labor, government and education.

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Ozone Action season is heating up!

(Air Quality, Public outreach) Permanent link

Today May 24, 2012 marks the first Ozone Action day of the season.  This is the first time since 1999 that an Ozone Action day has been called in May.  It appears there could be many Ozone Action days this year with such an early start, so it’s important to practice good habits every day.  
 
I am often asked if practicing these good habits really makes a difference. Many of us think of industry as creating most of the pollutants in Southeast Michigan. Why should individuals change their habits? The answer is that practicing good individual habits everyday does make a difference.  Industry is well regulated and has greatly reduced its emissions. People, however, tend to pollute much more freely. Studies show that the combined activities of individuals regularly create nearly 50 percent of the pollutants that cause ground-level ozone. SEMCOG is currently conducting a brief survey that can help remind you of positive actions you can take, as well as provide better direction for marketing and promoting the Ozone Action program.

 

Visit SEMCOG’s Web site for more information on Ozone Action Days. Also, residents wishing to be added to SEMCOG’s Ozone Action e-mail notification list should send an e-mail to ozoneaction@semcog.org; put “notification” in the subject line and include name, phone number, and e-mail in the body of the e-mail.


 

Grant Brooks
In order to create a successful future for Southeast Michigan, we must have an educated and engaged public. Grant’s blog posts will focus on important messages for residents on how their daily habits can improve quality of life for themselves and their neighbors.

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Quality Census data for each community

(Census, Data) Permanent link

The U.S. Census Bureau released results from its “post-enumeration survey” on May 22, 2012, providing a measure of the accuracy of the 2010 Census. The results found that the 2010 Census had a net overcount of 0.01 percent, meaning that only about 36,000 people were overcounted in the 2010 Census. This is an indication that 2010 Census is very accurate at the national level. The accuracy of census results varies by population group and by geographic area. Later, we should get accuracy estimates for the State of Michigan and for areas with 500,000 or more people, which are Detroit and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties in our region. Just a reminder, basic census data for each community in Southeast Michigan are in SEMCOG’s Community Profiles (http://www.semcog.org/Data/bycommunity.cfm). In addition, you can easily access more census data through links at your community profile page.

 

In regard to the U.S. House of Representatives’ appropriations bill (H.R. 5326) that effectively terminates the American Community Survey, eliminates the 2012 Economic Census, and halts several projects for preparing the 2020 Census, we have a bit of breathing room, as the Senate is not slated to take up its version of the funding bill until after the Memorial Day. Please continue to express your support for census data. Every bit of help is needed and appreciated.

Xuan Liu
Interested in knowing how SEMCOG’s data impacts local governments and residents in Southeast Michigan? Then, you’ll want to read Xuan’s weekly posts.

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Housing appraisal legislation – no silver bullet, but deserves your support

(Legislation) Permanent link

The Michigan Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee is poised to take up the legislation that would require licensing of Appraisal Management Companies and Registration of Fees. The bills passed the Michigan House of Representatives at the end of March 2012. While these bills are no “silver bullet” for ending our region’s struggles with low appraisals and a flawed valuation process, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

 

SEMCOG developed a Housing Valuation Quick Facts document that members, like Assessor Tony Fuoco from Lincoln Park, are using to advocate for a better housing appraisal and valuation system – “Great info that hopefully will trigger resolution to our issues,” Tony told us.

 

SEMCOG sent this letter on behalf of our membership to Michigan’s Senators earlier this month. I encourage you to express your support for these bills; please contact Kevin Vettraino with any current housing appraisal experiences and/or best practices you may be implementing.
 

 

Karen Wieber
Karen is SEMCOG’s Legislative and Planning Analyst. As a member of SEMCOG’s Membership/External Affairs Group, Karen draws on her local government planning experience to engage SEMCOG members and policymakers on a variety of issues.

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Use SEMCOG’s Data . . . just avoid the ugly sign

(Data, SEMCOG Member Services) Permanent link

Sign Mangus Post

 

Ever drive around town and see those ugly signs trying to get you to buy billboard space? Well these signs may be ugly, but the thought behind them is good – and SEMCOG can help. Consider including SEMCOG traffic count data in your marketing and redevelopment strategies.

The City of Dearborn Heights is doing just that. They are using SEMCOG data to assist a property owner in leasing out a vacant building. According to Ronald Amen, Director of Community and Economic Development, “The owner wants to use the information as a marketing tool and I want to see the long vacant building put back into use again.”

 

The SEMCOG Traffic Counts Database System is easy to use and packed full of most (if not all) major roads in the region.

So, think creatively like Dearborn Heights about how SEMCOG data can help your community’s efforts.
Just avoid the ugly sign.

 

Amy Mangus
You can leverage your SEMCOG membership to help your local government become more sustainable and effective. Amy’s posts will focus on SEMCOG’s member services.

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Why aren’t local governments planning ahead?

(Data, Efficiency, Right-sizing, SEMCOG Member Services) Permanent link

One year. That’s about the extent most communities are planning ahead – or less if the budget year is partially over. We help remedy this situation by working with member communities like Eastpointe, Keego Harbor, Wayne, Waterford Twp., and Oak Park to develop long-range financial plans to help the community plan beyond the typical one-year budget cycle. The financial planning tool was developed by John Kaczor for the Michigan Treasurer, which we enhanced to include benchmark data and other improvements.

 

The tool is easy to use via an Excel spreadsheet and readily allows a community to assess various scenarios for balancing revenues and expenses. As indicated in the chart below, the first cut of the financial forecast always shows a seriously deteriorating fund balance as revenues drop and expenses rise. We help community officials vary the assumptions, analyze the results, and recommend actions to balance revenues and expenses allowing fund balance to be sustained.

 

Click here for a sample financial plan that can be readily applied to your local government. Also, no-cost help for SEMCOG member communities is available by contacting Dave Boerger.

 

Financial Forecast chart

 

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

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Have fun, but be safe

(Transportation) Permanent link

Can you believe it, next Monday is Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer. The weather is projected to be great, so that means lots of people will be out and about visiting family and friends, or going to the beach to enjoy the holiday. This is our annual plea to do so carefully and not have your holiday end in a tragedy.
You know the drill – watch your speed, don’t drink and drive, don’t text and drive, wear your seat belt, watch out for motorcycles and people on bikes. There will be lots of cops out this weekend to motivate you to follow the law. They are there for your protection and the protection of others on the road.


So this weekend and throughout the summer months, please be extra careful when you are out on the road. There are so many good reasons to obey the traffic laws, but if you need an extra one – consider this. Law enforcement will be out and tickets will be distributed and it will cost you dollars that you could otherwise spend having a good time. Not an elevating reason, but maybe the one that works. The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning has produced a video on what you can expect. Please watch it by clicking on the link below and be safe!


www.youtube.com/user/OHSP/featured

 

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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Key socio-economic data in jeopardy

(Census, Data) Permanent link


On May 9, 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the FY2013 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill (H.R. 5326) that dramatically affects the Periodic Censuses and Programs. It effectively terminates the annual American Community Survey, eliminates the 2012 Economic Census, and halts several projects for preparing the 2020 census.

 

The American Community Survey (ACS), which replaced the decennial Census long form, is our country’s only source of small area estimates on social and demographic characteristics. There is no substitute from the private sector for ACS. Critical data on education attainment, household income, poverty rates, commuting patterns, among a lot more key socio-economic information, rely on ACS. Regional planning agencies, like SEMCOG, use ACS data to estimate and forecast infrastructure needs and plan for future growth. Local communities use ACS to choose locations for new schools, senior centers, hospitals, and fire stations. Even if the funding problems were solved in the proposed budget, the House bill also bans enforcement of the mandatory nature of participation in the ACS. This alone would require millions more in funding to achieve the same precision of the current ACS estimates.

 

For all of these reasons, we urge the U.S. Congress to continue its support for a comprehensive and statistically valid American Community Survey and other census projects. Now, the Senate will take on a similar bill. It will then take a joint committee to reconcile the bills before it reaches the President’s desk. Please contact your Congress members to express your support on Census data!

 

 

Xuan Liu
Interested in knowing how SEMCOG’s data impacts local governments and residents in Southeast Michigan? Then, you’ll want to read Xuan’s weekly posts.

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Over 100 environmental reviews…and going strong

(Best Practice, Environment, Green infrastructure, Stormwater management) Permanent link


Last week SEMCOG visited the City of Woodhaven to evaluate their salt storage facility and begin to draft a Pollution Incident Prevention Plan, or PIPP, as required in their Phase II Stormwater Permit audit by the state.

 

That makes over 100 environmental reviews and/or PIPPs that have been developed by SEMCOG for 44 of our members.

 

To help communities comply with their permit and prepare for this audit, SEMCOG developed an environmental review program to evaluate municipal facilities for stormwater pollution prevention activities prior to an audit. As part of the evaluation, SEMCOG staff will visit your facilities, evaluate your practices, and develop recommendations that will maximize your compliance with the permit.

 

EnvironmentalReview

 

During the environmental review, if other environmental activities and/or materials are observed that fall under other state regulations, SEMCOG will also make recommendations on how to ensure compliance. In many cases, this results in the need for a plan required for storing road salt or oil, called a PIPP. SEMCOG will draft this plan, in combination with the environmental review, as needed. This service is currently being offered free-of-charge to SEMCOG members.

 

If you have questions about your stormwater permit or have received a letter from the state notifying you of an audit, contact us and we would be glad to help!

 

Amy Mangus
You can leverage your SEMCOG membership to help your local government become more sustainable and effective. Amy’s posts will focus on SEMCOG’s member services.

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Monte Hall Time

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link


How many of you remember the old game show, “Let’s make a Deal?” On that show, contestants would dress up in crazy outfits and bring unusual things to trade for potentially wonderful prizes if picked to play by Monte Hall, the host of the show. I couldn’t help but think of that show as I continue to follow the antics of the U.S. House and Senate as they jockey to try to develop a transportation reauthorization bill. Spoiler alert: If a long-term bill is a great deal, I think we are going to get the gag gift – a long-term extension until after the election and try again with a new Congress in 2013.

 

The House is bringing the Keystone Pipeline to the show to trade for a new transportation bill. They also want a transportation funding package that a majority of House Republicans, including the Tea Party, can agree with. The Senate is bringing its MAP-21 bill to the show in hopes of getting it passed with as few changes as possible.

 

This week, the 47-member transportation bill conference committee (14 senators and 33 representatives) met for the first time in this game. Right off the bat there was disagreement on the piece of legislation from which the House will be negotiating. The Senate insists that the House can only use SAFETEA-LU as modified by HR 4348, however, the House will try to incorporate as much of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's bill, HR 7, as possible.

 

You know, on the “Let’s Make a Deal” show, while some people walked away with great deals by trading what they brought for what was in the box or behind the curtain and some got busted with gag gifts – at least they all had fun playing. I don’t think this is the case with reauthorization.

 

Thanks for playing. By the way, you can see clips from the game show on YouTube.

 

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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Throwaway Legislature

(Legislation) Permanent link


We clearly have become a throw-away society. We don’t treasure and continue to use what is working and meets our needs. We don’t fix things even when they could have longer-term utility. We use them and pitch them.

 

Last week, it dawned on me that this is exactly what we have done with the state legislature under the dictates of “term limits.” We didn’t fix concerns we had with the legislature. We enacted policy that discards our Senators and Representatives after short stays in the legislature (three terms in the House and two terms in the Senate).

 

Our team of SEMCOG staff and local government officials was in Lansing last week to work the capitol. We had a diverse range of issues to discuss with our legislators, ranging from replacement revenue for the personal property tax, manufactured housing, creation of a regional transportation authority, and long-term funding for transportation. Over the course of the day, we visited over a dozen state legislators.

 

What we found with the vast majority of State Senators and Representatives with whom we spoke were dedicated public servants, knowledgeable about the issues we raised, and eager to make a positive difference for the people of Michigan. To think that all of them will be kicked out in a few months or, at best, a couple more terms, saddened me.

 

Surely, there are rascals in the legislature. And, there are legislators who are ideologically driven on both left and right extremes. For many in this group, the decisions are simple…and often wrong. Rather than reward the “effective” legislators with longer terms or educating those who can improve, our approach under term limits is to throw them all away.

 

Term limits are bad. They force removal of our very best legislators when they are reaching their prime and can be most effective. Yes, we get rid of the underperforming legislators, but at a great cost…throwing out the very best at the same time.

 

We should repeal term limits. If that is unacceptable, we should, at least, extend the length of the terms. My preference is to let democracy work. We voters have the power to remove those who we don’t like. We should also have the power to keep those who are doing their job and doing it well.

 

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. Paul is also president of SEMCOG’s partner organization – the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition (MAC) – a coalition of business, labor, government and education.

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Expand your ability to think beyond the boundary

(Best Practice, Census, Data, Maps, Transportation) Permanent link


SEMCOG was created 44 years ago because of the imperative that elected officials think beyond their own communities’ boundaries. This has never been more important particularly in today’s economic reality. As you think beyond boundaries, we have data to help you. Community Profiles (http://www.semcog.org/Data/bycommunity.cfm) are SEMCOG’s most requested data. These online data profiles are designed to deliver a wide variety of demographic, economic, housing, transportation, and land use data for each community. It provides accurate and timely information at your fingertips.

 

To expand your ability to think beyond the boundary of your own community, we have a tool that helps you aggregate data from Community Profiles to the larger area of your interest. For example, a group of communities are interested in sharing services. To get a profile of all these communities combined, they can create a “custom profile” at their fingertips – click the “Custom Profile” link as shown below; in a new window, click on the desired community names in the select box; update the items to include using the checkboxes; click “Create Custom Profile” button. Voila! The data are aggregated into a single profile for all the selected communities.

 

New data are being added to Community Profiles continuously. Keep using it, and let us know what else could be helpful to you.

 

CustomCommunityProfileScreenshot

 

Xuan Liu
Interested in knowing how SEMCOG’s data impacts local governments and residents in Southeast Michigan? Then, you’ll want to read Xuan’s weekly posts.

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Alleys….Use them to your advantage

(Best Practice, Transportation, Walkability bikeability) Permanent link

When thinking of alleys, many people think … eyesore, dumping, ugly. But not the City of Rochester. The city worked with SEMCOG walkability staff to meet multiple outcomes for their alleys, including making them more pedestrian friendly and safe.

 

The result: the city implemented a recommendation to use a color treatment on the asphalt to denote specific pedestrian areas. It’s working! Not only does this help a temporary problem due to reconstruction of their Main Street, it’s an example of a permanent, low-cost solution for walkability.

 

RochesterAlley

 

More information on Rochester’s Main Street Makeover is available on the City's Web site. To learn more about creating a more walkable and bikeable community, check out SEMCOG's Walkable/Bikeable Audits Web page.

 

Amy Mangus
You can leverage your SEMCOG membership to help your local government become more sustainable and effective. Amy’s posts will focus on SEMCOG’s member services.

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Community Fiscal Database

(Best Practice, Data, Efficiency) Permanent link


In response to the financial challenges facing local governments, SEMCOG, in partnership with Munetrix, is providing members with comparable fiscal data for all Southeast Michigan communities. Use this database to identify trends, compare yourself to other communities, and assess the risk for emergency management. Financial data for school districts across our region are also included.
Financial data must now be transparent. A WDIV story last week highlighted Munetrix. The reporter said citizens can use this tool to see how their community spends taxpayer dollars.
Click the link below to access the data.

 
Munetrix logo
Community Fiscal Database from Munetrix

 

One of the more interesting charts provided in the database is the information entitled “Financial Trend and Forecast.” Refer to the City of Ferndale’s chart below as an example. Here you can see that in recent years Ferndale has matched expenses with revenue allowing them to maintain a healthy fund balance.

FerndaleFinancialTrendForecast


 

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

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Young people lead the way

(Data, Public transportation, Transportation, Walkability bikeability) Permanent link


I have written in the past that we are using fewer and fewer gallons of gas every year. Why? Well, I have told you that the main reason is the price of gas – the higher the price, the fewer gallons of gas we use. Add to that improving fuel economy, alternative fuel vehicles, and the sluggish economy, and you have an equation that explains why we are using fewer gallons of gas. Agree? Well, maybe not so fast.

 

Recently, a study entitled, “Transportation and the New Generation: Why Young People are Driving Less,” identifies these causes, but cites additional reasons why we may continue to use fewer gallons of gas in the future. According to the study, the following are reasons for the decline in gasoline sales:

  1. Huge rise in those "not in labor force"
  2. Boomer  retirement
  3. Chronic long-term unemployment
  4. Changing social trends in younger generations
  5. Declining real wages leave consumers with less discretionary spending cash
  6. High price of gasoline
  7. Increase in online shopping means fewer trips
  8. Improved fuel rates and cash-for-clunkers

The most important reason I have not cited from this group is the impact of young drivers.

 

The study cites that from 2001 and 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by 16 to 34-year-olds decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita – a drop of 23 percent. Why are younger people driving less? Well, because of higher gas prices, new licensing laws, improvements in technology that support alternative transportation, and changes in their values and preferences.

 

Many younger people also would rather live places where they have convenient options to the car, according to the study. We have heard this over and over here in Southeast Michigan and you can see communities placing greater emphasis on constructing more walkable and bikeable places in an attempt to be more attractive to younger adults.

 

All of this information suggests that gas consumption will continue to decline for years to come. This is a good thing, but what are the implications of this and how can we prepare?  One obvious huge implication of this trend relates to funding.  Fewer gallons of gas sold equates to fewer dollars to make road and transit improvements. On the other hand, it also means that our air will be cleaner.

 

I remember I couldn’t wait to get a car when I was 16. Now I know kids that don’t even want to get their driver’s license until they are in college, or after college. It is a new world and to be prepared, we need to be looking at trends like these and trying to understand what they mean. What was it someone said, “The only thing constant is change.” Think they got that one right!

 

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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Lay out the welcome mat

(Census, Data, Regionalism) Permanent link


Where is the source for our population growth? It used to be the “baby boomers” and their children. But we are having fewer babies, and we’ll have higher death rates as the aging of our population accelerates. By 2030, Southeast Michigan will have a negative “natural growth rate,” meaning fewer births than deaths. In the last decade, every year on average, we had 53,000 more people leave the region going to the rest of the nation than came into the region. This domestic out-migration rate will improve as our economy continues to recover, but it won’t become positive anytime soon. We have to remember that even in the 1990s, when our economy was doing well, we had a net loss of 24,000 people annually in domestic migration. That leaves international immigration the only positive force for population growth in our long-term population perspective (see chart below from SEMCOG’s 2040 Forecast).

 

ChangeOfPopulationComponents

 

While some states in the South and West passed restrictive laws against illegal immigrants recently, Michigan has been taking a more welcoming approach for the right cause. We do not get as many immigrants as the South and the West, however, we attract a small but strong group of immigrants who have much higher education levels than immigrants to other parts of the country. For us, the concentration of high-skilled immigrants is an asset to our economic renewal, for such reasons as they are more entrepreneur-oriented and help develop the knowledge-based industries, besides contributing to the population growth. The Kauffman Foundation report, "America's New Immigrant Entrepreneurs," found that immigrants are twice as likely as people born in America to start a business. In Silicon Valley, half of the tech companies were founded by immigrants. In Ohio, that rate is about 14 percent. It’s 17 percent in Indiana, 27 percent in Illinois, and 33 percent in Michigan. Retaining and attracting immigrants has become a focus for Michigan, as the state has started an initiative called Global Michigan, which practically is laying out the welcome mat to the world.

 

Xuan Liu
Interested in knowing how SEMCOG’s data impacts local governments and residents in Southeast Michigan? Then, you’ll want to read Xuan’s weekly posts.

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Partnering Pays Off!

(Best Practice, Environment, Public outreach) Permanent link


Macomb County is making partnerships work in moving forward their Blue Economy Initiative. How so? Macomb County is partnering with SEMCOG, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and others to draft a strategic development plan for the Blue Economy (using water resources for economic benefit).

 

One early success highlighting the importance of partnering is their Circle the Lake Tour signage program. Macomb County has installed 52 signs directing residents and visitors to the numerous amenities offered by Lake St. Clair.

 

CircleTourSign

 

The Circle the Lake Tour signs will have an even larger impact by partnering with the Michigan Department of Transportation to have signs on I-94. Hats off to Macomb County and MDOT for partnering for the betterment of our region.

 

For more information, check out the Tour Lake St. Clair Web site.

 

Amy Mangus
You can leverage your SEMCOG membership to help your local government become more sustainable and effective. Amy’s posts will focus on SEMCOG’s member services.

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Detroit Comparables

(Best Practice, Data, Efficiency, Right-sizing) Permanent link


Now that Detroit has developed a proposed budget linked to the recently approved consent agreement, let’s take a deeper dive to assess how it compares to the finances and personnel levels of other similar-sized cities. An analysis was performed using Detroit’s proposed 2012-13 budget compared to the 2011 audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) for each of the following eight cities with similar populations as Detroit. The results are shown below for each comparable city versus Detroit, as well as like data for selected service areas. Especially notable are the wide variations of both expenses and employees for the similar-sized cities, as well as Detroit’s relatively positive position with this new budget among the group of similar-sized cities both overall and for the various service areas. The tricky part will be meeting such a challenging budget while concurrently enhancing services and redeveloping the city. This new budget represents a great start.

 

US City Population Expenses
(in millions)
Employees
Austin, TX 790,390 $2,853 12,037
Columbus, OH    787,033 $1,391 7,919
Fort Worth, TX 741,206 $1,225 6,969
Charlotte, NC 731,424 $1,312 6,809
Detroit, MI* 713,777* $1,312* 6,242*
El Paso, TX 649,121 $630 5,378
Memphis, TN 646,889 $3,054 7,568
Baltimore, MD 620,961 $2,434 15,053
Boston , MA 617,594 $1,460 8,225
Avg. w/o Detroit 698,077 $1,795 8,745


       

 

*Proposed 2012-2013 budget

 


 

Service Area Detroit Expenses
(in millions)
Average Comparable
Expenses (in millions)
Employees Average Comparable 
Employees
Police $340 $324 2,954 2,597
Fire/EMS $159 $160 1,257 1,229
Public Works $158 $156 683 763
Administration $129 $173 579 877
Development $69 $124 125 488
Parks & Rec. $12 $53 87 481
Community Svcs. $39 $105 272 153
Debt. $74 $46 n/a n/a

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For no-cost assistance in dealing with your fiscal challenges, contact me via e-mail at boerger@semcog.org.

 

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

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May 1 – Beginning Ozone Action season and Commuter Challenge

(Air Quality, Environment, Public outreach, Public transportation, Transportation) Permanent link


May 1, 2012 is an important day for two reasons. First, it’s the start of Ozone Action season, which lasts until the end of September. Ozone Action days are called when hot summer temperatures combine with pollution to create elevated amounts of ground-level ozone, a threat to human health and the environment. On Ozone Action Days, people are asked to take certain actions that can help reduce the creation of ozone that day and keep it at levels that meet the national air quality standard. Find out what you can do to help keep the air clean at www.semcog.org/OzoneAction.aspx.

 

The second reason is the start of the Commuter Challenge, which lasts until the end of May. Help cut down on traffic congestion and pollution – take the Commuter Challenge by trying a new way to work during the month of May. The Commuter Challenge is a fun and exciting way to encourage carpooling and vanpooling, riding public transportation, biking and walking, and using telework and flextime benefits. And there are prizes at the end of the month! We’re kicking this year’s challenge off with an event today. If you’re in the downtown area on May 1, come by the Commuter Challenge Transportation Fair at Compuware. We will be giving away great prizes to the winners of our “Carpool” game from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. We’ll also have free popcorn, water, and information from MiRideshare, SMART, DDOT, and The People Mover. And, of course, more info is available at www.semcog.org/CommuterChallenge.aspx.

 

I know you’re reading this information with passion and interest to help keep the environment clean. Please pass this information along to friends, family, coworkers, and community leaders. After all, we only get one life on one planet, so make the best of it!

 

Grant Brooks
In order to create a successful future for Southeast Michigan, we must have an educated and engaged public. Grant’s blog posts will focus on important messages for residents on how their daily habits can improve quality of life for themselves and their neighbors.

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