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

Not too early to think about winter maintenance!

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

June 19, 2012 — With Ozone Action Days popping up right and left this summer, to cool things off a bit, let’s talk about Winter Maintenance success stories from around the region. Besides, now is the optimum time to plan ahead for next winter’s maintenance challenges.


City of Auburn Hills Winter Maintenance Efficiencies
Winter road maintenance programs challenge local governments for many reasons – rising salt costs, selecting effective deicing products, rising fuel costs, reduced staff, and budget constraints. There are additional concerns over the impact deicing materials can have on the environment and infrastructure. Auburn Hills has implemented some innovative practices. Despite salt price increases of $17.67/ton, or 62 percent over recent years, new winter operation procedures have lowered their deicing product expenses from $105,723 to $65,419 (38 percent savings) since 2008 while concurrently improving deicing capabilities. New procedures implemented include:

  • Install Pre-wet systems on salt trucks to spray water on the salt at a rate of 12-16 gallons per ton of salt just before applying to the roadway
  • Blade off all moisture on the roadway prior to salting
  • Reduce salt application rate from 800 lbs. to 400 lbs. per lane mile
  • Expand training program and simplified procedures

For more information, contact Don Grice, Deputy Director, Auburn Hills Department of Public Services, 1827 N. Squirrel Road Auburn Hills, MI 48326, (248) 370-9400,eE-mail: dgrice@auburnhills.org
And click the following links from SEMCOG’s AgileGov searchable database for more winter deicing savings ideas:

Stay cool this summer and plan ahead for next winter now! SEMCOG is very involved with bringing our member communities together to talk about best practices in winter road maintenance. In fact, Auburn Hills hosted last year’s SEMCOG University workshop on this topic. This year’s winter road maintenance workshop will be hosted by the City of Novi and held on September 27. More details and a save the date notice will be sent out in July.


SEMCOG members: for no-cost fiscal and operation assistance, contact me 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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Down the stretch they come…

(Legislation, Transportation) Permanent link

June 18, 2012 — You know, I think it is really hard to strike a deal with someone after you have called them militant, radical, and extremist. Yet that is exactly what a democratic senator called conservative house republican members of the conference committee trying to develop a 15-month transportation bill. There are now less than two weeks remaining in the current short-term extension of SAFETEA-LU. The legislation either has to be extended or a new bill developed and passed prior to June 30, or the bill and funding lapses – in an election year, no less!


This is beginning to sound like a new chapter of the blame game. Each side blaming the other for stalled negotiation, negotiating in bad faith, and just not willing to go as far as the other side. Republicans want to ease environmental and regulatory review and want to restrict the use of the transportation enhancement program. Republicans also have tied the Keystone pipeline to the reauthorization proposal.


Democrats have threatened to just pass their Senate bill and count on the fact that it received strong bipartisan support in the senate. Many think if it gets introduced to the House, it will pass.




And so it goes. Fourteen days and we are still name-calling with a long-term solution out of sight. Sometimes, I hate it when I am right and this looks like one of those times. Look for a six-month extension to the end of the calendar year and then another one until early 2013. This Congress can’t get it done – let’s hope the next Congress can!


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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When will the housing market recover? (And what may recovery look like?)

(Census, Data) Permanent link

A couple new reports shed light on where the U.S. housing market is headed and what a recovery may look like.  Last week, I had a chance to sit in on a webinar sponsored by S&P Indices where the panel believed a housing recovery could still be a few years off. That being said, recent indicators suggest the stage is being set for a recovery to take hold.  Housing affordability is near record highs and the job market is growing (although slowly). Excess housing supply is falling and so too are the number of foreclosures.


With a healthier national market, what does this mean for Southeast Michigan? I think what I said in our 2011 Community Fiscal Capacities still holds true. We are certainly affordable; however our job market needs to improve. Our state’s foreclosure inventory is dropping and recent home price indices show the region’s prices close to a bottom. Prices will rebound (slowly) once there is sustained job growth and there is further decline in negative equity rates and foreclosures in the market.


So what may a recovery look like?  That leads me to the second report. The Demand Institute just published “The Shifting Nature of U.S. Housing Demand” and they have some intriguing findings. They believe the recovery will be led by demand from buyers for rental properties. More than 50 percent of people planning to move in the next two years intend to rent – young people and immigrants especially.


The Demand Institute also believes the recovery will not be uniform across the country. Factors like foreclosure inventory and unemployment rates will have a major impact on how local and state markets perform. Additionally, they believe local amenities – like accessibility to public transit - will influence prices.


Brian Parthum
Brian analyzes Southeast Michigan's economy. As part of SEMCOG's Data Analysis Group, Brian helps local governments understand what the latest employment and economic trends mean to them.

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