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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

Congratulations to WCCCD for Expanding Access and Success in STEM Education!

(Collaboration) Permanent link

 

Reports from the Field...

 

October 28, 2014 - SEMCOG Member Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD), along with three Detroit-based postsecondary education institutions – University of Detroit Mercy, Wayne State University, and Marygrove College – is the recipient of a $21.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

 

The partners formed the ReBUILD Detroit initiative to increase student enrollment from underrepresented and economically disadvantaged backgrounds pursuing careers in biomedical research. More than 50% of the 47,000 undergraduate students at these four institutions are underrepresented minorities and qualify for federal financial aid.

 

As the SEMCOG/MAC STEM Careers and Skilled Trades initiative found, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) are among the fastest-growing education pathways for career success in Southeast Michigan. This grant will help increase the number of students earning biomedical degrees in the region, provide research opportunities and mentoring for undergraduate students and networking opportunities and grant application assistance for graduate school students, and coordinate faculty research.

 

As George Swan, III, Vice Chancellor for External Affairs at WCCCD says, “Community colleges provide a critical point of entry into in-demand careers.” WCCCD has participated in a number of initiatives to expand the STEM pipeline for students in Detroit and the region, including the Step It Up America program to prepare Women of Color for high-demand IT sector jobs. This and many other programs to provide career exploration, improve math and science skills, and strengthen workplace readiness can be found in SEMCOG’s Best Practices Inventory.

 

WCCD 2014

At the grant announcement at the University of Detroit Mercy (l-r): Dr. George Swan, III, Vice Chancellor for External Affairs at WCCCD; Dr. Antoine M. Garibaldi, President, University of Detroit Mercy; Dr. Roy Wilson, President, Wayne State University; and Dr. David J. Fike, President, Marygrove College.

 

 

 

Naheed Huq
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 Master's degree in Public Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics.

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I hit a deer, now what?

(Public outreach, Transportation) Permanent link

 

October 27, 2014 - No, this is not going to be another blog reminding you to “Don’t veer for deer”. I think you already know that. In fact, you can get all the information you need on being careful to avoid a car deer crash from SEMCOG’s website at www.semcog.org.

 

deer
Because this graceful running is not limited to fields. 

 

What I want to tell you about is what to do if you have hit a deer. It happened to me last year. Actually in my case, the deer hit me. I pulled over to the side of the road and did not know what to do next. My car was fine, the deer was gone, but I was shaken up a bit. Eventually, I got myself together and continued to my meeting, shaken, but uninjured.

 

So, here are some steps to follow if you do hit a deer:

  1. Pull safely over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Call 911. Explain that you have hit a deer and let them know if it is an emergency or not.
  3. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible if your car needs to be towed or to just alert them to the situation.
  4. Don’t go looking for any injured animals off the main roads.
  5. Don’t walk around on the roads.
  6. Don’t underestimate damage to your car; check for leaking fluids and make sure the hood of the vehicle is secure. Do not drive if the airbags are deployed.

Although the animal that hit me was able to flee the scene, not all deer are so lucky. Many motorists are unsure of the proper procedure once they have hit an animal let alone what to do with what's left.

 

Highway kill tags are issued for the deer carcasses. Generally, whoever hit the animal is given the opportunity to claim it. The Michigan State Police have people to call who will pick up the animal to be processed if no one wants it.

 

Hopefully, you will not have an encounter with a deer, but if you do, perhaps you will know a bit more than I did about what to do next.

 

 

 
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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Is the tide turning?

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

October 20, 2014 - A recent survey conducted by AAA found that that just over two-thirds (68%) of Americans believe that the federal government should be spending more on roads, bridges, and mass transit systems. Only five percent of those surveyed thought that the federal government should spend less, while the remainder (24%) thought that funding should remain the same.

 

Of course to spend more, you have to get more and more than half of those surveyed (52%) are prepared to pay more at the pump to fund those needed improvements. How much? Of those 52%, most would be willing to pay an additional $10 or more per month for better transportation infrastructure. Currently, U.S. drivers pay about $8 per month, on average, in federal gas taxes.

 

Congress hasn’t raised the federal gas tax in more than 20 years; the last increase came in 1993. One of the big reasons is that many politicians fear they will be voted out of office if they support an increase in taxes for better transportation. But maybe, just maybe, things have begun to change. According to the AAA survey, more than half of respondents (51%) would be “significantly or somewhat” more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports increased federal spending on transportation. Another 27% said that it wouldn’t change their mind at the voting booth, with only 19% saying that they would be “somewhat or significantly” less likely to vote for them in the next election.

 

So, what does this mean? I am not really sure. I hope similar polls support the AAA poll and that legislators get to the point where they believe that they will not lose their jobs to make critical improvements in our infrastructure. They all believe it is important. They all make a big deal about the money they get for important projects back home. Now, they all need to get together and secure the needed dollars so they can fix things not just in the short term – but for the long term as well.

 

Maybe public opinion has begun to change. What do you think?

 

 

 
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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Plan B, or is it C?

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

October 14, 2014 - While the state legislature continues to decide whether or not they will address the lack of funding for needed transportation projects, local agencies continue to step up and address some of their transportation needs themselves. Here are two of the latest examples.

 

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners has decided to use PA 283 to provide some transportation funding for badly needed transportation improvements. The board has approved a 0.5 mill that will raise about $7 million countywide. The money is to be split between the county and the cities and villages, with the cities getting $3 million and the county getting about $4 million. The legislation allows the county board to raise these dollars without a vote of the people for specific projects; the funds must be spent in a year. The board action is only for one year. It is possible that if the projects are completed, the board could consider repeating the process next year or, better yet, the state legislature could pass a significant funding bill and there would not be the need to renew the county-wide millage at all.

 

The City of Farmington Hills is asking its citizens to support a 2.0 mill increase for 10 years for badly needed road improvements. The city indicates that the average PASER pavement rating is 4.3 (poor/fair), much below the average rating of many other communities in the area. The millage would raise an additional $6.1 million annually for 10 years. The goal of the millage is to improve the overall PASER rating of Farmington Hills roads from the current 4.3 to 6 (fair) by the end of the program. This would greatly improve the pavement quality of roads in the community. Two of the projects they have identified include improving the pavement on 13 Mile Road from Orchard Lake to Farmington, and on 11 Mile Road from Orchard Lake to Middle Belt.

 

Now, before anyone even begins to think that these two cases will dilute the case for an overall increase at the state level, let me remind you that we need at least an additional $1.5 billion to improve roads statewide. These two examples would provide only an additional $13 million per year – a lot of money, but nowhere close to what is needed.

 

I commend the City of Farmington Hills and the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners and other local elected officials and agencies for having the strength and the intelligence to do something our state legislature has not found a way to do since 1997 – make a tough and potentially difficult decision because it is the right thing to do.

 

 

 
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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ITC Trail opens in Canton Township

(Collaboration, Regionalism, Walkability bikeability) Permanent link

 

October 10, 2014 - Canton Township officially opened the Canton ITC Corridor Trail!

 

The grand opening completes nearly 15 years of hard work in creating this multi-use trail system. It all began with community input identifying more open spaces and trails as desired amenities. This most recent phase of Canton's multi-use trail was constructed on the International Transmission Company (ITC) corridor. Hikers, cyclists, and other nature lovers are now able to take advantage of these three additional miles of trails that connect the Lower Rouge Trail to both Flodin Park and Griffin Park.

 

Canton offers nearly 15 miles of nonmotorized pathways, connecting the Canton community and the region. Its multi-use trail system has many benefits to residents – e.g., increased physical activity, green space, and property values. The community also benefits. An example is the recent addition of two premier retail bicycle stores in Canton.

 

Projects like this are an important part of Southeast Michigan’s nonmotorized transportation system. SEMCOG’s nonmotorized plan will be presented to the General Assembly for adoption in November.

 

Several organizations contributed to developing these trails. Thanks to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of Transportation, International Transmission Company, and Wayne County.

 

ITC_ribboncutting

 

ITC_ribboncut

 

Kajal Patel
Kajal has been with SEMCOG for over six years. She is responsible for updating and analyzing traffic crash data in Southeast Michigan. In addition, she develops messages and information about important regional transportation safety issues. Kajal also helps those wishing to start a Safe Routes to School program at their school with important data and other logistical support. Kajal works with communities to improve the safety and performance of community corridors and intersections via low-cost improvements. Kajal has a Master's degree in Civil Engineering from Wayne State University and is a licensed engineer for the State of Michigan.

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Opportunity slipping – contact your legislator now!

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

October 6, 2014 - I read the Detroit Free Press article yesterday on a recently completed voter poll. The good news from the poll related to road repairs is that respondents are willing to increase the state sales tax by one percent to fix roads. The bad news? The poll indicated that roads are no longer the top issue in the state with voters. It has slipped to third behind education and jobs. The article implied that maybe the time for the legislature to deal with roads has come and gone yet again. That might be right.

 

The legislature is out now until after the election. There will only be a few days in the so called "lame duck" session to act on the needed revenue for roads and transit improvements. If they do not act, it will be yet another year of doing nothing to improve our crumbling transportation infrastructure. Another year of things getting worse and more expensive to fix.

 

I wish I understood the plan. I wish I knew if there was a plan! It is difficult to find $1.5 billion to improve the condition of the system – and that is just to improve pavements. After another winter, the condition of the system will continue to deteriorate – guaranteed! Every year the cost to improve the system will increase, making it harder and harder to address. I guess people would rather continue to pay hundreds of dollars to fix cars that have been damaged by bad pavements than pay much less in increased taxes to start to fix the problem today.

 

We will try to talk to legislators while they are off and encourage them to fix this problem when they get back. You should too. The hole in the roof keeps getting larger and we just continue to look at it and measure how much bigger it is getting rather than trying to fix it.

 

Pothole Big

It's not just about potholes.

 
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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Macomb County celebrates Manufacturing Day!

 Permanent link

 

October 3, 2014 - Macomb County is celebrating Manufacturing Day 2014 in a big way. Events include taking 1,200 students from 28 Macomb County school districts to local manufacturing sites to see modern manufacturing in action. With 12 percent of jobs in the region related to manufacturing, this is a critical issue for the entire region. Macomb County and Macomb Intermediate School District are working with more than 30 employers to host the students as part of an effort to change perceptions of manufacturing and foster interest in manufacturing careers by sharing information on the range of jobs available, career opportunities, salaries, benefits, and job security.

 

This morning, we’re at one of the host companies – KUKA Systems North America in Sterling Heights.

 

studentes at KUKA
Students from Stevenson High School; more event photos available here 

 

SEMCOG and MAC have created a number of products to provide students with information about STEM and technical careers to help meet the current and future needs of employers. These include policy recommendations to update graduation requirements and enhance application-based learning so students can gain a practical knowledge of how their classes can be applied in the real world; a range of materials for students including posters, a brochure, and web resources on STEM and technical career opportunities; and the latest issue of Semscope which summarizes the findings and recommendations.

 

Manufacturing is important to the region’s future and we should take this opportunity to celebrate with all the manufacturers in Southeast Michigan.

 

 

 

Naheed Huq
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 Master's degree in Public Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics.

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