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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

Observations about MAP-21

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link


July 30, 2012 — The transportation world has become very nervous since MAP-21, the new federal transportation legislation, passed a couple of weeks ago. Old funding processes and procedures are in the process of being replaced with new ones and new doesn’t always equate to better. Many different funding programs have either been eliminated or combined into new programs, with new rules as to how to apply for and receive funding. Not to mention the fact that in many cases, there are fewer dollars to go around.

 

After reading the legislation and reviewing several different summaries, I have concerns of my own I want to share. All of these will be worked out over time – so I am not worried about that at all. I am worried about the long-term implications of some of these new initiatives in the legislation. For example, I am worried about bridge funding. The bridge program was eliminated and bridge funding now is an eligible expense under the Surface Transportation Program (STP) or the National Highway System (NHS) or safety funding. I wonder how bridge funding will compete in the future with pavement and safety projects. Bridge projects can be expensive and wipe out funding programs very quickly. We have just started to put a dent into repairing some of the backlog of bridge needs we have. Is that going to stop as a result of this?

 

I have similar concerns about the enhancement and the CMAQ programs and many others as well. Change can be good, or it can also take you in a direction you don’t really want to go. I guess the good news is that we have a couple of years to see what the outcome of this new legislation is and either have Congress tweak it or change it big time. In the meantime, keep checking www.semcog.org for updates on process and procedures. A new MAP-21 page will be up soon to help organize all of the new stuff that will be coming out. Call if you have questions – we will get through this and see that every dollar we get is spent and we’ll try to spend other dollars as well. Nothing has changed there!


 

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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Support for DIA

(Regionalism) Permanent link


July 27, 2012 — At its meeting yesterday, SEMCOG’s Executive Committee supported passage of a 10-year, 0.2 mill regional tax to support the Detroit Institute of Arts.

 

In introducing this action, I outlined four reasons why the DIA needs our support. This regional tax will provide needed funding lost from state and city public funds…funding that is necessary to operate the DIA. As a result of this action in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties, residents in those counties will be able to visit the DIA for free. It will further enable the DIA to expand its hours and provide educational opportunities for schools, public programs, and support for exhibitions.

 

The DIA is a world-class cultural institution and one of this area’s regional jewels. A resource like the DIA is one of those key elements that contribute to a healthy, vibrant society. It is also crucial in attracting new businesses and residents to the area.

 

The approximately $15 per year for every $150,000 of a home’s fair market value is a great investment in the future of Southeast Michigan. SEMCOG is pleased to support this regional effort.

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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Back to Basics

(Environment, Green infrastructure, Legislation) Permanent link


July 26, 2012 — SEMCOG has been working on state legislation that would make grant funding available for local governments to improve investment in sewer infrastructure and water quality protection. A well-maintained infrastructure system is the foundation for building a prosperous region.

 

The legislation (House Bills 5673-5676 and Senate Bills 1155-1158) creates a grant program (90 percent state, 10 percent local) to support stormwater planning and asset management programs. In addition, the bills create a state-operated loan program for major capital projects. Funds for these programs amount to $654 million from the voter-approved Clean Michigan Initiative Bond program of 2002. SEMCOG is leading development of this legislation and is working with the administration and a diverse group of stakeholders from the public and private sectors.

 

There is real opportunity to get this legislation passed, as we’ve garnered support from a number of legislators. Contact your Senator and Representative and encourage their support for this important legislation. Let’s make sure we take care of the basics first – our infrastructure – so we can be confident that all of our other work toward building a more prosperous region is on a solid foundation.

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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Better-Faster-Cheaper

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


July 24, 2012 – Governing magazine has a regular segment offering ideas from across the country for local governments that provide better, faster and/or cheaper services. As this video implies, the magazine encourages replicating such an approach, so we are going to apply the concept to our weekly blog, using successfully implemented ideas from our member communities that you can hopefully apply to your local government. Here goes:

 

Western Wayne Criminal Investigation Section The Western Wayne Criminal Investigations Section is a collaboration of ten communities who together loan between one and two officers to the unit. This unit consists of a number of teams dedicated to assisting communities handle issues concerning narcotics investigations, auto theft investigations, and a community response team.
City of Mount Clemens Cost Reductions As a member of the Macomb Area Communities for Regional Opportunities (MACRO), the following internal efficiencies and external shared services were identified so the MACRO group could better understand the existing relationship before exploring new collaborative opportunities.
Northfield Twp. Reducing Insurance Costs In order to reduce costs associated with the liability insurance for the townships five buildings and 35 employees, Northfield Township decided to look for alternative carriers. The strategy would reduce costs while maintaining an equal level of coverage.
Troy Restructuring City Staff The City of Troy is restructuring its staff to move from many departments to a few "service bureaus". This transformation will group departments with similar needs and functions to be able to better assist the public, and accommodate the shrinking staff.
Southfield General Fund Strategic Plan The City of Southfield has implemented a five-year strategic plan to better budget the use of the city's general fund account. Because the city has a large number of departments utilizing money from the general fund, the city has found itself going over budget and spending levels.
Royal Oak General Funds Cost Allocations The City of Royal Oak has developed a cost allocation system that allows the finance department to bill each non-direct service department in the city for their use of general funds money. A few examples include all building, recreation, and road maintenance department's general fund usage being billed back to the user department.
Warren Storm Sewer Dye Testing This project included performing dye testing in the City of Warren sanitary and storm sewer system collection system. The goal was to identify and eliminate illicit connections from the sanitary sewer to the storm water (stream). In addition, water quality monitoring was performed to determine the successes of the projects.
Huntington Woods' Single Stream Recycling The Cities of Huntington Woods and Beverly Hills started a single stream recycling pilot program to the state EECBG program. In partnership with SOCRRA, each community has been implementing their pilot program.

 

For assistance developing and implementing similar ideas in your community, contact Dave Boerger 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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BRT – The new light rail

(Regionalism, Transportation) Permanent link


July 23, 2012 — A briefing on what is BRT, or bus rapid transit, was held this week at the Detroit City Council Auditorium. The purpose of the event? To try to convince people that BRT should not be considered a less-adequate alternative to light rail. BRT is the fastest-growing technology in the world – not just in the US, but in the world!

 

Speaker after speaker spoke of the benefits and advantages of BRT over light rail, including:

  • Lower capital costs
  • Lower operating costs
  • More flexibility

The best line was delivered by the representative from Cleveland. Cleveland recently opened a BRT line on Euclid Avenue – their version of Woodward Avenue. He said that Cleveland, like Detroit, studied light rail and BRT for years before deciding to build BRT. He said, “If the decision was to build light rail or nothing, we would have nothing.” They would have no better service and none of the economic development that the BRT has stimulated. Sound familiar to you? Sure looks like our situation here to me.

 

SEMCOG and the Woodward Avenue communities have just started an alternatives analysis on Woodward from Pontiac to the riverfront in Detroit. Yes, another study to decide the best transit alternative on Woodward, but optimistically, another chance to get it right. I am hoping the study recommendations, which should be completed in late 2013, will coincide with establishment of the proposed Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the local opportunity for funding. Then, I hope we can finally build the preferred alternative we come up with and not go away with nothing again.


 

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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Disparity in local governments’ revenue base

(Data) Permanent link


July 19, 2012 — As the State Equalized Value (SEV) for Southeast Michigan’s real properties continued to decline (-5% from 2011-2012, see my blog post from July 12, 2012), there are a couple of additional trends worth noting.

 

First, nonresidential (e.g., offices, retail stores, and industrial buildings) SEV change lags residential SEV change. While housing prices begin to show signs of stabilization and the rate of residential SEV decline slows down, nonresidential buildings have to catch up. The table below shows that the rate of nonresidential SEV decline (-8.0%) more than doubled that of residential properties (-3.8%) in the region. Almost every county (St. Clair being the exception), saw a significantly higher rate of decline for nonresidential buildings than residential. Perhaps local governments should pay more attention to nonresidential buildings in their communities in the next couple of years?

 

Secondly, there is a wide range of SEV changes across the region. Some communities with newer and higher-end housing saw smaller SEV decline or even growth this year. But most older communities and many rural communities in the region’s fringe areas continue to face larger declines in SEV. In regard to counties, Washtenaw county had the smallest overall SEV decline of -1.4%, whereas Wayne County and Macomb County experienced more than seven percent decline, -7.4% and -7.1% respectively.

 

Real Property SEV Percent Change, 2011-12

County Residential Nonresidential Total
Livingston

-2.6%

-6.0%

-3.2%

Macomb

-6.3%

-9.3%

-7.1%

Monroe

-2.0%

-4.2%

-2.9%

Oakland

-1.1%

-9.6%

-3.4%

Saint Clair

-5.6%

-5.2%

-5.5%

Washtenaw

-0.6%

-3.3%

-1.4%

Wayne

-6.7%

-8.7%

-7.4%

Southeast Michigan

-3.8%

-8.0%

-5.0%

                           
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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Addressing rising benefit costs

(Best Practice, Right-sizing) Permanent link


July 17, 2012 – Many local government officials have contacted SEMCOG about reducing the legacy costs associated with pensions. As a result, SEMCOG has partnered with MERS, the Michigan Employees Retirement System, to co-develop the following list of recommended actions that local governments can apply to address ever-rising benefit costs:

 

Review Paid Time-Off Accrual Polices
• Paid vacation, sick, and personal leave time is a benefit offered to employees.
• The most cost-effective policies are designed as “use-it or lose-it.” Policies that allow employees to accrue leave time and carry it over each year increases employer liability due to pay increases in the future, but also can increase Defined Benefit pension liabilities over time. This is sometimes known as FAC padding.
• Review policies that cap the amount of leave that can be rolled over from year to year. Options could be given to employees to cash-out eligible leave, donate their leave to other workers, or roll it into programs like a Health Care Savings Program. Tax savings is achieved for both the employer and employee.

 

Consider Tax-Favored Savings
• Participating in programs like the MERS Health Care Savings Program offers employers and employees the ability to save FICA taxes on contributions.
• With no cost to the employer to participate, these programs are a great way to help employees save money to combat rising costs of health care.

 

Re-evaluate Current Benefit Structures
• Create a lesser Defined Benefit Plan for new hires.
• Create a Hybrid Plan for new hires.

 

Consider Group Buying Solutions
• MERS leverages its buying power to save municipalities’ cost on Group Life and Disability Insurance. The average savings is 30%.
• There are many added benefits that can actually increase the value of the benefit to your employees without increasing the premiums.

 

Consider Pooling Investments
• Use a team of proven investment professionals to manage the portfolio, saving you time with the added benefit of trained expertise.
• Spread your risk. Diversification is designed to reduce exposure to volatility, by combining a variety of investments (such as stocks, bonds, real estate, and commodities), which are unlikely to all move in the same direction.
• Pooling reduces investment administration costs, because the investment professional handles all the administration for you.

 

I encourage SEMCOG members to contact me (boerger@semcog.org) for more information. Additional information is also available on the MERS Web site.

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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MAP-21

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

July 16, 2012 — So, how many of you read the MAP-21 legislation I gave you last week? Probably not many of you, right? It took me a while, but I finished reading and summarizing the key points contained in MAP-21, the new federal transportation legislation. MAP-21 stands for Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century and you will be hearing a lot about this bill for months to come. Click here to read my summary. The legislation is long on what it is we have to do, that is pretty clear. The state and the region have to develop a freight plan. Transit operators have to develop asset management plans. We have to measure, measure, measure everything (that is what my dietician told me too!) to see if the condition of pavements, bridges, and safety is getting better (or not) as a result of our investment choices.

 

The good stuff – the how we are suppose to do all of this, is yet to come. What are the requirements of this freight plan? What are the performance measures we have to use? Many of these and other decisions are to be made in a process that includes the regions, the state, and the federal government through the regulatory process; the federal secretary of transportation has up to 18 months to develop the specifics. So, it could be a while until we know all of the “how.”

 

This legislation has lots of good stuff in it. The consolidation of many federal programs makes a lot of sense. I know many of the interest groups would challenge me on this, but there were just too many small federal programs that were underfunded. The increased emphasis on traffic safety is also a good thing, as is development of a national freight program.

 

So, be patient. Get ready for guidance, clarification, regulations, conferences, Webinars, and papers designed to help us develop and understand this legislation. SEMCOG will be sure you are aware of every opportunity to participate and learn. After you have read the summary, drop me a line at palombo@semcog.org if you have questions and I will do my best to answer them.


 

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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Local Governments’ revenue base continues to shrink

(Data, Regionalism) Permanent link

July 12, 2012 - While it is encouraging to read the news about the “Detroit Three” automakers and other companies in the region improving their business, the public sector continues to lag the private sector in terms of revenue sources. The latest data gathered by SEMCOG show that State Equalized Value (SEV, which is half the market value that assessors assign to a property) decreased by five percent (5%) from 2011 to 2012 in Southeast Michigan. This is the fifth consecutive year that the region lost SEV. Since 2007, the region’s SEV has declined by 34%. When the inflation factor is taken into account, the decline is a staggering 40% from the peak! More than half of local governments’ revenue is from the property tax. It may take a couple of more years to see any improvement in this major revenue source for the public sector.

 

Annual Percent Change in SEV, Southeast Michigan

Annual Percent Change SEV for 7-12-12 blog
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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SEMCOG at Wyandotte Art Fair…please visit us!

(Public outreach, Public transportation) Permanent link

July 12, 2012 - The 51st Wyandotte Street Art Fair is going on now on the historic streets of that community. SEMCOG is there to talk to everyone about our public outreach programs – Ozone Action, Ours to Protect, and the MiRideshare carpool and vanpool matching program. We’ll also be distributing information on SEMCOG’s Regional Transportation Plan. The public engagement process begins now and we need your input. If you can’t make it to the fair, look for us throughout the region this summer and fall, and follow the process at www.semcog.org/TransportationStrategy.aspx

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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Let’s go fishing

(Best Practice, Green infrastructure) Permanent link

July 11, 2012 — Many of us love the chance to fish, swim, and kayak right in our backyard. In fact, more and more communities and counties are betting on that to set our region apart from other areas in the country. An important element of that is opening areas to recreation and keeping our rivers and lakes clean.

 

Last week we visited the celebration of another such success!

 

Paint Creek is part of the Clinton River and a designated coldwater trout stream. For years, there has been a successful partnership between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Clinton River Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited, and area municipalities to improve the local trout fishery. As such, this local water resource has the potential to enhance the fishery and local economy.

 

In studies by this group it was determined that the Paint Creek Dam was causing significant problems in the restoration of the fishery (i.e., trout can’t get past the dam) and was named one of the highest priority dam removal projects in Michigan.

 

This project did receive funding and last week we celebrated the successful completion of the project which included:

  • Remove the dam on Paint Creek and re-connect 16 stream miles;
  • Restore 1,500 feet of stream channel and re-connect 2.5 acres of floodplain/wetlands;
  • Reduce bank erosion by greater than 95 percent in this area;
  • Restore native fish populations and improve managed trout fishery.

Fishing

 

Congratulations to all involved!

 

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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Sharing Services – Parks and Rec

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

July 10, 2012 — With the summer season in full swing, Parks and Recreation Departments in local governments are extremely busy serving their citizens. Many communities are collaborating with neighboring municipalities to share services. A quick search of AgileGov, SEMCOG’s searchable database of over 1,000 success stories and best practices from across the region, has yielded the following Parks and Recreation Shared Service examples:

The Michigan Local Government Benchmarking Consortium collects comparable data from communities across Michigan for 14 different service areas. Listed below are the latest results for Parks and Recreation. How does your department stack up?

 

Parks & Recreation

Benchmark

Cost per resident

$23.36

Total operating budget per park acre

$1,805.11

Operating budget per passive park acre

$1,774.51

Operating budget per active park acre

$3,722.23

Total park acres per 1,000 population

25.0

Passive park acres per 1,000 population

16.5

Active park acres per 1,000 population

9.5

User fees as a percent of operational park maintenance budget

15.9%

Number of park maintenance FTE per 10,000 population

2.66

Number of park maintenance FTE per 100 acres

3.06

Number of full time employees per 100 acres

2.29

Number of seasonal/temporary employees per 100 acres

4.30

Average full time employee cost per hour (includes benefits)

$35.77

Average seasonal/temporary employee cost per hour (includes benefits)

$10.60

Average full time employee wage per hour (excludes benefits)

$22.64

Average seasonal/temporary employee wage per hour (excludes benefits)

$9.65

 

SEMCOG provides no cost assistance to local Parks and Recreation Departments of member communities. Contact Dave Boerger.

 

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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Be careful what you ask for

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link


July 9, 2012 — Well, last week, Congress did something they haven’t done much of lately – agree on something.  They were finally able to approve a new transportation bill. Now it was not your typical 5-6 year bill – this one was a 27-month bill. The new bill is called Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century or MAP-21. Personally, I am glad we are done with the “TEA” series of bills (ISTEA, SAFETEA-LU).

 

So, what did we get with this new bill? Well, we now have 27 months of needed funding certainty after almost three years of multi-month extensions. The legislation also includes yet another bailout of the Highway Trust Fund by the General Fund, averting a significant cutback in federal funding as a result of us spending faster than dollars going into the trust fund. Finally, the bill includes significant and needed reforms, including program consolidation, streamlined project delivery, and development of performance measures.

 

What we didn’t get was the most important thing the program needs – a long-term increase in funding to be able to address the growing transportation needs of our country. This Congress left that action for the next Congress to address. The reforms we did get are significant and needed. The use of performance measures is a good approach to be able to report on the progress we have made towards improving the system…or will it? I find it ironic that a Congress that will not increase needed funding now requires development of performance measures that will document that the condition of our transportation systems continues to deteriorate!

 

This legislation reminds me of the action taken by our own state legislature in the late ‘90s when, rather than increase the gas tax, they instead required the state to develop an asset management approach to managing our roads and bridges. Don’t get me wrong – that was a great idea, but for the past 10 years we have been documenting the deterioration of our road system and – guess what – they have not passed an increase in funding! I hope we are not about to do this again.

 

Look to SEMCOG’s Web site for our summary of the key components of the bill. If you are ambitious, you can read the whole report yourself.


 

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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Fun with a purpose(2)

(Regionalism) Permanent link

July 6, 2012 – SEMCOG’s General Assembly meeting last week did much to reaffirm the strength of commitment to this region. A large number of SEMCOG members were on hand to hear about accomplishments of the last year and celebrate regional leaders. SEMCOG presented its prestigious Regional Ambassador award to three outstanding leaders: Janis Bobrin, Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner; Debbie Dingell, Chair of Metropolitan Affairs Coalition; and the Clinton River Watershed Council. We also elected a new SEMCOG Chairperson – Michael Sedlak, Green Oak Charter Township Clerk – and SEMCOG Vice Chairpersons. If you don’t already know Mike, please introduce yourself at the next meeting!

 

All of this took place at Ford Field – a true Southeast Michigan gem! Attendees were warmly welcomed by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, who reaffirmed his commitment to creating success here in Southeast Michigan, as well as the important need for collaboration among local governments. We also enjoyed a keynote speech from Detroit Lion great Herman Moore, who talked about the many reasons why he continues to make Southeast Michigan his home. We asked members to come to the meeting to “share our pride” and I am confident everyone left feeling proud about this region we call home.

 

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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Local knowledge matters

(Census, Data) Permanent link

July 5, 2012 – The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its 2011 population estimates for cities, villages, and townships. For some reason (that virtually nobody knows), they chose to assume that each community's household population grew at the same rate as the rest of its county, and kept group quarters population (people in dorms, nursing homes, prisons, etc.) constant. This oversimplified methodology makes this data set basically useless. For example, according to this estimate, every community in Wayne County lost one percent of population from April 2010 (Census 2010) to July 2011, regardless of whether its Canton or Detroit, because the county lost one percent of population.

 

Fortunately for Southeast Michigan communities, SEMCOG produces community population estimates twice a year using local knowledge anddata, such as housing changes. The latest SEMCOG estimates as of December 2011, are available online.

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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Let’s Celebrate….Clinton River Watershed Council receives SEMCOG’s highest award

(Best Practice, Environment, Regionalism, Stormwater management) Permanent link

July 5, 2012 — As we celebrate the 4th of July, it’s fitting that we celebrate the accomplishments of one of our region’s star organizations – the Clinton River Watershed Council. Last week at SEMCOG’s General Assembly, the watershed council was presented with SEMCOG’s highest honor, the Regional Ambassador Award.

 

This 40-year-old organization is committed to protecting, enhancing and celebrating the Clinton River, its watershed and Lake St. Clair. The Clinton River is an important regional asset, due in part to the hard work of the Clinton River Watershed Council. The organization strives to assure that its natural, economic, and recreational value enhances the quality of life for those who live, work, and play in the Clinton River watershed and Lake St. Clair. They provide programs and services like Adopt-A-Stream, where teams can volunteer to monitor and maintain portions of the river, and Stream Leaders, which gives students a hands-on chance to learn about the river. They also help restore our trout fishery in one of the Clinton River stretches…the Paint Creek (one of the only trout fisheries left in our area).

 

The Watershed has partnered with SEMCOG for many years, and collaborates with the many local governments, businesses, community groups and individuals in the area. Congratulations to them as they are celebrating their 40th year of protecting and enhancing this important watershed for future generations.


 

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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Surprise! It's a transportation bill!

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link


July 3, 2012 — To the surprise of many, congress passed a two year transportation bill containing about $105 billion in funding. Now that the so-called MAP-21 will carry us for the next two years I am taking a close look to see what it will do, what it won’t do, and what we need to do to prepare for the end of this bill and the development of the next one. Check back here for more details early next week!


 

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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Fiscal/Operational Assessment Can Help Local Governments Deal With Financial Crisis

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


July 3, 2012 — A number of communities have taken advantage of our no cost fiscal and operational assessment as they strive to cut costs and balance budgets in light of unprecedented revenue drops. Some of the local governments who have been provided fiscal and operational assessment are Rochester, Wayne, Eastpointe, Port Huron and Garden City. Some of the benefits those communities realized from the assessment follow:

  • Public safety scheduling improvements that enhance the ability to train while reducing overtime costs 30-50%
  • Collaborative dispatch arrangements that were implemented in less than 5 months saving 25%
  • The SEMCOG benchmark data and best practice information were instrumental at convincing department heads that more efficient ways of performing their services was possible.
  • Transfers from the General Fund were reduced 20-80% as various services like courts, utilities and library’s became self sufficient by implementing efficiencies and fee adjustments.
  • Rebidding all service contracts yielded as much as 20% savings.
  • Health care plans were modified to reduce premiums 15-30% without materially impacting employee benefits.
  • During a SEMCOG University Webinar on the subject, Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino provided the following chart showing the impact on their finances over the last several years. Their community was one of the first to take advantage of a fiscal and operational assessment.

Rochester

 

SEMCOG's fiscal/operational assessment process
A team of SEMCOG’s expert consultants spend a ½ day on-site with the local government to analyze their fiscal situation and make specific recommendations that help them restructure, balance budgets, cut costs and/or enhance services in the most effective manner possible. The consultants have a wealth of public and private sector experience, plus have gained immeasurable insight and comparable information by working closely with the region’s local governments over the past 5 years.

 

For help in dealing with your fiscal and operational challenges or to arrange an assessment, contact Dave Boerger, boerger@semcog.org or 248-875-7120. Also, check out the AgileGov database on SEMCOG’s Web site.



 

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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Enjoy The 4th Safely

(Transportation) Permanent link


July 2, 2012 — Can you believe the 4th of July is coming this week?  Me neither.  That means it is time for another of our safety messages. Please read on – this one can save you money and maybe even your life!

 

Beginning Sunday, July 1st and continuing through Sunday, July 8th, Michigan State Police will be patrolling the roads as part of the nationwide Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.) traffic safety initiative aimed at drunk drivers. Visit the Michigan State Police Web site to learn where and when the special enforcement activities will take place.

 

July 4th is likely to be a beautiful day and people will be going to parties, the beach or to friends homes.   You want to have  a good time, but have a safe time too!  Please be safe and consider the following actions:

  • Designate your sober driver before the party starts.
  • If you’re impaired, call a taxi, sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to their destination safely.
  • Don’t text and drive!
  • Always make sure you and your passengers are properly secured, either with seat belts or in the appropriate car seat or booster.
  • Be extra careful around motorcycles, this is the first year the state has allowed drivers to drive without a helmet

Listening and following these simple steps will help you, your family and everyone enjoy this and the many holidays to come!

 

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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