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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

Administrative Benchmarks

(Best Practice, Efficiency, SEMCOG Member Services) Permanent link

 

April 22, 2014 – This week’s blog continues our series of reviewing the recently updated SEMCOG municipal benchmarks with a focus on administrative metrics for clerk and assessing.

 

Voting booth2

By Serenity (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

SEMCOG Clerk and Assessing Benchmarks

 

administrative benchmarks

 

The clerk and assessing functions are extremely critical to effective local government operations. The clerk performs all duties related to elections and is the record keeper for the local government; the assessing department is responsible for developing the taxable values (TxV) critical to generating municipal revenues. Literally, all communities have their own clerk, while only larger communities tend to have their own assessor.

 

The above benchmarks help guide and assure that proper methodologies are being applied to realize effective operation of both departments. The highlighted cost metrics show quite a variation between the best 20 percent and average community we’ve surveyed. That means there are significant improvement opportunities by learning and applying the best practices of the top 20 percent.

 

SEMCOG has documented those best practices and can help your community improve their administrative departments in an optimal manner, at no cost to member communities. Contact Dave Boerger.

 

 

Dave Boerger
Learn how to navigate fiscal uncertainty by improving efficiency, fostering collaboration, and enhancing service delivery. Through weekly posts, Dave will discuss legislative developments, best practices, and training opportunities.

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Filled potholes is not the goal

(Best Practice, Efficiency, Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

Pothole repair
By U.S. Air Force Photo By/Josh Plueger [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
(Not pictured: The apex of road planning and maintenance)

 

April 21, 2014 – There are stories all over radio, TV, newspaper, Facebook, and Twitter every day about how bad our roads are – and they are bad. In some ways, this is not news, just as the sun rising isn’t news. But it is, because almost nothing is being done to improve them. I appreciate the fact that the media has finally caught on to a story that should have been getting more publicity years ago and not just every spring. But, I have a problem with headline after headline that refers to improving our pavements as “fixing the potholes” or the need to develop “pothole plans.” No, that is not what we want or should aspire to!

 

I understand that it is the potholes – AKA the deplorable condition of the roads – that may finally spur some action by the legislature. What we need is a plan for a more permanent fix that will give us nice, smooth pavements that are properly maintained. To a transportation professional, filling potholes is a necessary evil. It is an extremely short-term action, a band-aid if you will, on an injury that requires stitches or surgery. It is not a solution; it is a life-saving action.

 

I would like to suggest a far more elevating goal than just filling the potholes, one that provides enough resources that if managed and spent properly will allow us to build, maintain, and then rebuild our roads without having potholes at all! Dreaming? Probably. But let’s dream big as long as we are dreaming.

 

 

 

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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So far, so good

(Efficiency, Transportation) Permanent link

 

April 14, 2014 – Well, we reached the end of the first week of constructionmageddon on I-96. (So, I invented a new word, rhymes with snowmageddon!). So far, things seem to be going well. I drive through the construction every day, so I have first-hand knowledge of what is going on. I tested different routes every day last week. In the morning, I have stayed on the service drive to Telegraph, taken 5 Mile, 6 Mile, and Plymouth Roads to Telegraph and to Lahser and Outer Drive. I have found very little difference in my travel time taking any of these routes and none of them has been congested.

 

On my way home from downtown, I have stayed on the local lanes and gotten off at Outer Drive a couple of days and Telegraph a couple of days. From there, I have gone south to Plymouth to get home and gone north to 5 Mile and 6 Mile to get home. I have not encountered any significant congestion getting home using any of these routes so far.

 

On the first Monday of the closure as I was driving on the local lanes going home, I did observe a long line of cars waiting to get off on Southfield with most of them going south once on the overpass. I initially thought I would try getting off at Southfield and go north to the Grand River/Fenkell exit, would be the best way for me to get home, but guess I was wrong!

 

Anyway, whatever route you are taking, it seems that there has been no big hurt yet. All of this could change in the coming week as more schools are back in session. Also, as construction advances, there may be changes required in your choices. It is important that you continue to be patient, look for better routes, especially if congestion does grow and remember, this will all be over in about six months.

 

What do we get for this? Well, we get a lot. We get construction completed in one construction season instead of two. We get a project that costs fewer dollars so that other projects can also proceed. Most importantly, we get a new freeway that should be good for another 30 years or so. Sounds like a good deal to me!

 

 

 

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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Library Benchmarks

(Best Practice, SEMCOG Member Services) Permanent link

 

April 8, 2014 – This week’s blog focuses on Libraries as part of our continuing series reviewing the recently updated SEMCOG municipal benchmarks.

 

SteacieLibrary
By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

SEMCOG Library Benchmarks

 

Library Benchmarks

 

Some communities have their own libraries and some use regional libraries. The strategy depends largely on size and historical practices. Regardless, it behooves municipal officials to make sure the library services being provided to their citizens meet or exceed their expectations. With new technologies dramatically changing library services, it’s also important that the municipal IT budget be at an appropriate level.

 

The above benchmarks help guide and assure that proper methodologies are being applied to assure effective library operation. The highlighted utilization and cost metrics are especially pertinent.

 

SEMCOG can help sort through your library issues and develop an optimum strategy, at no cost to member communities. Contact Dave Boerger.

 

Dave Boerger
Learn how to navigate fiscal uncertainty by improving efficiency, fostering collaboration, and enhancing service delivery. Through weekly posts, Dave will discuss legislative developments, best practices, and training opportunities.

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Need more reasons?

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

 

April 7, 2014 – Over the years, I have identified many reasons why increased transportation funding is needed. They range all of the way from putting people to work, to improving traffic safety, to saving us money. So far, neither I nor anyone else has found the right words, phrases, or arguments to convince either our federal or state elected officials to increase funding.

 

In case you needed any additional information or reasons why additional funding is necessary, try some of these reasons:

  • $51 billion in MAP-21 funding will expire in FY 2014.
  • The Federal Highway Trust Fund is projected to be insolvent by September 2014.
  • Between 1990 and 2020, U.S. population will have grown 30 percent, while the purchasing power of gas tax revenues will have diminished by 48 percent.
  • 54 percent of America’s major roads are rated poor or mediocre.
  • One in four bridges needs significant repairs or can’t handle today’s traffic.
  • 45 percent of Americans don’t have access to transit.
  • By 2030, there will be a 25 percent increase in vehicle travel and a 64 percent increase in travel by large commercial trucks.
  • 3,561 people died in traffic crashes in 2012.
  • 660,000 jobs will be in jeopardy because of shipping delays.
  • At least 6,000 projects nationwide may be threatened to stop in their tracks.

How many more reasons can be given until our elected leadership decides to find a way to fund the needed improvements? At the federal level, they have at least begun to talk; at the state level, a $500 million proposal has been put forth – not nearly enough, but it’s a start.

 

Please call your legislator and tell him or her to find the dollars so the needed improvements can be made. Tell them it is time or we will be adding more negative statistics to those up above.

 

 

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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SEMCOG Water & Sewer Benchmarks

(Efficiency, SEMCOG Member Services) Permanent link

 

April 1, 2014 – With the deadline fast approaching to decide the future of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, this week’s blog as part of our continuing series reviewing the recently updated SEMCOG municipal benchmarks will focus on Water & Sewer metrics.

 

D.C. Sewer
By Zginder (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

SEMCOG Water & Sewer Benchmarks

 

Water and Sewer Benchmarks

 

Even though most communities across the region use Detroit Water and Sewerage for such services, the infrastructure within the boundaries of your community must be managed internally – a tall challenge in today’s fiscal environment. Sometimes sewer and water systems can be out of site and in turn out of mind, with such assets not being properly maintained or used.

 

The above benchmarks help guide and assure that proper methodologies are being applied to assure effective operation of these utilities within your community. For example, the benchmarks highlighted in yellow show the frequency of typical problems for the best and average systems across the region. Ongoing attention by senior officials is necessary in order to improve performance if your municipal water and sewer system is experiencing problems at higher than indicated levels. Otherwise your residents and businesses will no doubt express low satisfaction with the service and have high complaint rates.

 

SEMCOG can help sort through your sewer and water department issues and develop an optimum strategy, at no cost to member communities. Contact Dave Boerger.

 

Dave Boerger
Learn how to navigate fiscal uncertainty by improving efficiency, fostering collaboration, and enhancing service delivery. Through weekly posts, Dave will discuss legislative developments, best practices, and training opportunities.

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