Category: Prime Politics Written by Patrick Keating/Chronicle Staff
If there is one issue Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel would like to see discussed at the Mackinac Policy Conference, it is regional focus.
“In other words, how do we brand the region?” he asked, saying he deals with the same question at the county level.
Macomb is comprised of 27 varying municipalities. Hackel’s job is to figure out how to brand the county — based upon the unique assets of the individual communities within it — so that people get a perspective of what the county is all about.
He believes the same concept should be expanded to the region, because Southeast Michigan is competing with other regions throughout the world for resources, assets and attractions.
“We have some unique things in this region that we don’t cross-promote as regional leaders,” Hackel said, adding that they need to figure out how to come together to get people to understand the importance of this region.
He also noted that Macomb and the region are ignoring the recreational opportunities and quality of life assets that also are economic opportunities.
“Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River,” he said. “It’s the mainstream main street.”
Hackel’s eighth floor office overlooks the Clinton River, which he said ties into Oakland County.
“How do we make that connectivity as regional partners?” he asked.
He said the Clinton River runs through Mt. Clemens, and asked why there isn’t a vibrant downtown, with investment from the private sector building on that riverfront.
“How come we don’t see canoe rentals?” he asked.
He also said the Clinton River is greater in size than “little creeks” that have been developed by other states.
Hackel said that near the mouth of the Clinton River, there are businesses, such as restaurants, where people on the river can stop.
But these are far fewer than there once were. There used to be a great boating industry, with riverboats coming up and down the Clinton River all the way into Mt. Clemens.
He asked why they don’t do that now.
“Did we ignore it? Did we not realize? Did we not capitalize on it?” he said
He also wonders why the region doesn’t play off of the “Pure Michigan” promotions, which he called great branding for the state.
“You’ve got the Detroit River, you’ve got the Clinton River, you’ve got the St. Clair River, you’ve got Lake St. Clair, which is the busiest freshwater lake in the entire country during the summer months,” he said.
He emphasized that Macomb County has 31.5 miles of a coast line and 41 miles of a river running right through the county.
He is, however, playing off the “Pure Michigan” branding in Macomb County.
“And we’re making some huge advancements with our Planning Department and our Water Resources Advisory Council, to do just that,” he said.
Many towns have riverfronts, but don’t have access by boat. On the other hand, they have huge development opportunities.
“Because people just like to locate around water,” Hackel said, adding that he’s kayaked the Clinton River from Yates Cider Mill on down.
“You’re just looking at trees,” he said. “You think you’re up north somewhere.”
Where is there development along this riverfront?
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for them to have that same kind of environment where people are saying, ‘We’re going to grab something to eat’ or ‘We’re going to go to that restaurant.’”
Hackel mentioned that Utica is probably the closest thing Macomb County has to that right now; there are restaurants, bars and trails all along the riverfront.
Hackel also said there’s more boating and fishing activity, more marinas and more sporting opportunities on Lake St. Clair than elsewhere.
“In fact, it’s been recognized as the greatest bass fishing lake on the entire planet,” he said, adding that the “Super Bowl” of fishing tournaments — the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series — is coming to Lake St. Clair.
One of the forums at the Mackinac conference will focus on is the role the private sector plays in urban development. Asked what he’d want conference attendees to know about private sector development in Macomb County, Hackel said a great example of such development is what’s happening in downtown Detroit.
He praised George Jackson and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, calling the DEGC a great example. He’d like to mirror that in Macomb County.
“How do you let the private sector come in and figure out what do we need to do to drive economic development and opportunities within the County?” Hackel asked, pointing out that all the various planning departments have their separate rules about how people get permits.
He mentioned how they “pull it together” to let the private sector have more of a say in helping to make those things happen.
Hackel said that because there’s such a hunger for new development and investment in Detroit, city leaders are accommodating the needs of the private sector developers and investors. He believes Macomb County needs to start looking at doing the same thing.
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano cited municipal finance as the main issue he’d want discussed at Mackinac. Asked if Macomb County is weathering things better than Wayne County in that respect, Hackel said it’s a balance.
He said we’re over-governed to begin with, and asked if we need all these various police departments, different dispatch centers and different school districts.
“The question becomes, is that a reason why a lot of the tax dollars are being dispersed among many entities?” he asked. “Is there a way of capturing those dollars that are out there, to consolidate, and do more with less?”
As an example, he said Macomb is creating a unique dispatch center that can take on every municipality in the county.
Asked if he’d have welcomed the county-wide dispatch center when he was sheriff, Hackel said he’d have welcomed it. It’s something they’ve been talking about for well over 20 years, he said, and that in 10 years of his talking about it as sheriff, nobody would listen.
When he became county executive in 2011, it was one of the first things he worked on.
“I pulled people together and said, ‘Let’s do it for our needs, internally,’” he said. “Because there were separate silos within county government that were doing the same darn thing.”
He said when they created it, it was with the mindset that they weren’t going to force municipalities to do it.
“But when they start realizing money is tight from the revenues and that tax structure, and they’ve got to start giving up certain things, one of those is going to be dispatch.”
He added that it’s already happening. Sterling Heights and Clinton Township are on board, and Shelby Township is talking about it.
He also said there will be a far greater level of service from this enhanced facility in dispatching alone.
Hackel was elected Macomb’s first county executive in 2010. Mayor Bing attended his first State of the County address in 2011, the first time a regional leader was in attendance at such an event.
“And the reason he came here was because he realized, early on, how much of an impact we’re trying to make in promoting the city of Detroit,” he said, adding the major sporting venues and the urban center in Detroit add tremendous value to Macomb county.
“And we want to make sure they understand how we add value to what goes on in the city of Detroit,” he said.
Last year, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano joined Bing as attendees.
“Never before have we ever had a regional leader come to State of the County address in Macomb County,” Hackel reiterated. “And within two years, we have all of them coming together as we’re cross-promoting one another.”
Hackel said he’s not interested in partisan politics, and that he doesn’t care about the bantering going on in Washington or Lansing. His job is to figure out how to succeed as a region, noting that if the region succeeds, so does the state.
But it’s not just him, he pointed out.
“Our staffs, whether it’s IT, finance departments or planning departments, are working together to try to figure out, ‘How do we lift the region up?’ So Macomb is making it regional.”
Asked what Macomb County’s best kept secret is, Hackel said they always talk about blue collar and automotive, but unique high tech jobs are being offered in the county.
“The research and development that occurs in Macomb County, particularly in that corridor or cluster that we have in the city of Sterling Heights and in the city of Warren, many people don’t realize and they don’t understand.”
He cited the defense industry as an example, saying billions of dollars are invested in the county in defense.
“I would never have guessed that as the sheriff,” he said, adding that Macomb County is the defense capital of the Midwest.
He said 600 companies that do defense work in Michigan are located in Macomb county.
He also said they sometimes lose sight of the fact that Macomb also has a huge agricultural industry, particularly on the north end.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:33
Category: Prime Politics Written by Patrick Keating/Chronicle Staff
According to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, municipal finance is the one issue attendees of the Mackinac Policy Conference need to discuss this year.
He said Wayne County has lost $100 million since 2009 because it depends on property taxes. “The state’s revenues have gone up, and all of it has been because of action that helps themselves,” Ficano said. “For example, the auto industry really is the thing that has bolstered the state in the past couple of years because it has come back up.”
He also said when there are increases in employment — such as 1,000 jobs at the Wayne Assembly Plant or 1,200 in Flat Rock — everyone pays income tax, but all that revenue goes to the state. “None of it is seen on the local level,” Ficano said.
He also noted that when people are working, they buy more things, but the sales taxes from those purchases likewise go to the state. “On top of that, the state has increased its income tax rate from 3.9 to 4.25,” he said. “They’ve eliminated a number of deductions, and also tax pensions. So all that revenue goes to the state of Michigan, so if you had two charts, you would see the state of Michigan’s going up like that, and they never anticipated property values would drop like this. So we’re limited.”
Ficano said that even if Wayne County bounced back to where it was in 2009 regarding property values, it would take until 2025 to get there because there is a 5 percent cap on each year it could increase. “Well, it’s not bouncing back at that rate,” he said. “So, that’s the dilemma we face in this.”
Ficano pointed out that the state government increased its budget in every department except the Department of Corrections. “That’s their prerogative, but meanwhile revenue sharing and everything else has decreased,” he said. “There’s this dichotomy that’s going on.” Ficano noted that people depend on their local governments for things like education, police and fire. “If you have an education issue, you don’t call up the Department of Education of the State of Michigan, you go to your local school board,” he said. “You dial 911, you don’t get the state, you get your local police and fire department. And so those kind of revenues are the things that are necessary.”
He compared metro Detroit to Chicago, saying each community in the greater Chicago area has its own tax index. “Then if you go out Cook County or something it’s a different tax,” he said. “Michigan used to be like that. And instead, the state said, ‘Let’s have one universal collection and we’ll feed it back to you locals by revenue sharing.’ Well, it’s universal now, but we don’t get any of the revenue sharing at the rate that it was promised.” The state has constantly reduced it.
According to Ficano, there will be forums regarding all the revenue increases coming into the state. “We’re having a local forum with all the Wayne County communities, and then we’re hoping for a statewide forum,” he said, adding that they have a lot of interest.
Ficano said there are 180 fiscally-challenged communities in Michigan.
“Are you going to appoint 180 emergency managers?” he asked with a laugh. “Or if they do, you’re going to have a really difficult time with it. So you need a Proposal A moment.”
Education is one of the issues being discussed at the conference. Asked his thoughts on improving education in Wayne County, even if he were just speaking as a citizen and not as county executive, Ficano said you cannot “emergency manager your way out” of education problems.
He also said most people like their teacher, but they think the system is askew.
“It’s an odd situation that you see a lot of times with parents,” he said.
is daughter, who teaches in Ann Arbor, told him that from a practical standpoint, there are one or two ways you start to teach. “You teach them to a test level, and you can probably get them to a test through memorization, through rote and things like that.” he said. “But are they going to be able to continue on lifelong learning, and what education’s supposed to do? You need that balance.”
Ficano noted that law students don’t memorize laws, because laws are going to change. "The same type of thing has to go into education,” he said.
He admitted that he’s out of his league on that point, as he isn’t an educator, but said young students need to be able to evolve in their education. And he acknowledged that students need to learn the basics, especially reading.
Ficano spoke out against the proposed $1 million cap on benefits for people injured in an auto accident.
“I don’t agree with it at all,” he said. “I think that it hurts, even with national health care coming, the cost for catastrophic injuries you get in a car accident can go above $1 million in a heartbeat.”
He also said it’s not going to take rocket science to answer the question of whether the insurance companies are likely to be the ones to try to do this.
This goes in line with the elimination of the deductions you used to see in income tax.
“You used to get a deduction for tuition, you used to get a deduction for dependents, for youngsters and things like that,” Ficano said. “And all that’s been eliminated. All that helped people in need with their daily lives.”
He said you wonder how well some of this is thought out, adding that it creates this cycle of “have nots” continuing to be have nots. With respect to Gov. Snyder, Ficano said he disagrees with the governor on a lot of issues, but believes he’s trying. “I vehemently disagree with him on right to work,” Ficano said.
Ficano wants Snyder to focus on business, to build a business environment.
“But it seems like all these auxiliary issues are popping up,” he said, adding that the basic things are that people want jobs, they want a good education, and they want their kids to go to college. He emphasized that these aren’t Democrat or Republican issues, and that Michiganders would benefit from a focus on those areas.He said Snyder tries hard, but some of his priorities — like right to work — are the wrong moves.
Asked what he’d bring to President Obama’s attention if the president could only spend an hour in Wayne County, Ficano said he’d first thank him for what he’s done for the auto industry.“I can’t imagine what the economic landscape would be in this area,” he said. “Because it would have basically cannibalized. People don’t even realize Ford would have gone down, too.”Ficano would also bring the president into the neighborhoods of Detroit and say we need help.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 11:32
Category: Prime Politics Written by NewsOne Staff
Virginia Republican E.W. Jackson secured the nomination to run for Lt. Governor on Saturday, and, today RawStory.com unearthed a YouTube video in which he says that Planned Parenthood is more “lethal” to the Black community than the KKK, civil rights leaders are guilty of genocide and Christians must decide if they want to follow Jesus or be in the Democratic Party.
Read more from Raw Story:
E.W. Jackson, a pastor and Harvard graduate who previous sought Virginia’s senate seat, is the party’s first African-American candidate for statewide office since the 1980s. He’s also part of a trio of fringe conservatives leading the Virginia Republican Party’s statewide ticket, joined by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli running for governor and state Sen. Mark Obenshain running for attorney general.
“The Democrat Party has created an unholy alliance between certain so-called civil rights leaders and Planned Parenthood, which has killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions,” he said in a video published to his official YouTube page. “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was.
“They can keep their homosexuality private,” he said. “You and I cannot hide being black. I need not recount to you the painful history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings and sterilizations, all because of skin color. Anyone who dares equate the so-called gay rights movement to the history of black Americans is exploiting the black community.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 14:28
Category: Prime Politics Written by By Bob Weiner and Nakia Gladden
By Bob Weiner & Nakia Gladden
The nation's media are transfixed with obsessive coverage of Hillary Clinton's role (there was none) in the talking points on the Benghazi deaths, IRS investigation of Tea Party groups' tax deductions (the same way they earlier asked the same of the NAACP), the Justice Department's demand for AP's phone records concerning leaks on Yemeni terrorists (after Congress had demanded the investigation of the leaks); and the press properly wants to know what to do about Syria, and how to end sex abuse in the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, WHAT ABOUT JOBS? That's the real problem that will define our future success as a country for the rest of this century, and it is a question Rep. John Conyers is asking. The silence has been deafening. At the President's news conferences, which we attended this week and last week, there was not a single question from the media about jobs.
Despite the Dow reaching all-time highs, the number of jobs available has seen no such luck. "Are we in the midst of a jobless recovery?" asked MSNBC's Chuck Todd last week on "Andrea Mitchell Reports." According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment is at 7.5%. Though that is the lowest it has been in the last four years, the U.S.post-World War II norm is about 5% unemployment and has often been at 4% or under. .
Michigan's unemployment rate is a staggering 8.5%. Michigan tops the list for African Americans who are unemployed at 18.7%.
What are the major factors contributing to the slow recovery of jobs in the US? Outsourcing is at the top of the list. Shipping jobs overseas for cheaper labor hinders the opportunity for job growth. Moreover, based on recent tragic events in Bangladesh's and China's factories, lives would be saved because companies would be regulated under U.S. standards. Unfortunately, major companies would prefer to increase their profit margins than to make those jobs available for Americans who need them. Yet U.S. company profits are not at issue—they are at all time records. It's our jobs—the factor which helps most American families—that are at low numbers.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. Last week the President began a series what he calls the "Middle Class Job and Opportunity Tours." According to White House spokesman Josh Earnest, the President will visit cities exhibiting job growth to "learn what has helped them become successful and use these models of growth to encourage Congress to act." He launched his first events in Austin, TX and Baltimore, MD. Although it is a start, we need more than just stump speeches, we need immediate action.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, has reintroduced his "Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act" and is creating a "Jobs Caucus". The Act is a "jobs-for-all bill that would create millions of new fast track jobs and allocate billions of dollars for job training." The bill currently has 35 cosponsors and counting. Hopefully, Conyers can use the same noise and clamor he used for the single payer health care bill. It goes without saying that he made the President's health bill a better one. He can do the same on jobs by making sure that they get included on the agenda and not just debt, deficit, austerity, and rich tax breaks.
Conyers is pressing the issue. At his weekly jobs strategy meeting, where he pulls in national, Michigan and Detroit organizations and leaders, he said that every time he sees the President – and Obama listens since Conyers was the first congressman to endorse him—Conyers tells him, "Jobs should be the number one concern. Full employment is the single most important issue on the agenda. Jobs are the way the economy will improve, and government emphasizing employment is the way for families to come out of poverty and joblessness." End the debt by jobs and productivity, not by cutting programs, says Conyers.
Conyers is also concerned with the social ramifications of high unemployment rates. He says, "When jobs go up, crime goes down. Alcohol and drug use also go down."
Once again, later this summer, the debt ceiling rears its ugly head. Jobs do not seem to be at the top of the agenda of most in Congress -- they are focused more on the deficit, tax cuts, and program cuts, a spiral which we and Europe have seen in the past and now makes everything worse. We need JOBS, not austerity. Lest anyone think John Conyers, despite his incredible history, is not out there pitching, they should see his high energy, constant meetings, and leadership discussions pushing jobs onto the national agenda.
Robert Weiner is a former White House spokesman in the Clinton administration and former chief of staff for Cong. Claude Pepper(D-FL),spokesman for the House Government Operations Committee, and senior staff for Cong. John Conyers (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Ed Koch (D-NY), and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). He wrote the epilogue to Bankole Thompson's groundbreaking book, Obama and Christian Loyalty. Nakia Gladden is policy and research analyst for Solutions for Change.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 07:28
Category: Prime Politics Written by by Roz Edward
The Michigan Chronicle's Pancakes and Politics, Forum 3 made history Thursday morning at the Birmingham's Townsend Hotel, when it convened one of the most impressive panels of Michigan politicians at such a pivotal moment in Dertroit's history. Political developments in Detroit and Southeast Michigan over the past several days regarding Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano have created hot debate and immnse speculation in political and economic circles. Joined by Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Pancakes and Politics patrons had front row seats to a history-making discussion.
Mayor Bing, who announced only days ago that he did not intend to seek reelection, but stated that he would remain in politics and would consider a county position told audience members, "The system is broken, no doubt about it. And what we have done during the course of my administration is make some cuts. But we are at the point where we can't cut anymore. ... We have to figure it out and grow."
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano emphasized that Detroit and Wayne County were not the only communities with financial difficulty. "There are 180 distressed communities and school districts across the state; it's not just southeast Michigan. If you go to Grand Rapids they are facing the same types of pressures that we are."
When asked about the primary challenge facing Oakland County, L. Brooks Patterson responded, "We are doing fine. We have paid off all of our debt ... I am not bragging, but I don't have the same pressures as some of the other [executives] do."
Macomb Executive Mark Hackel urged the regions residents to reserve judgment regarding the area's demise. "For the first time ever in Macomb County's history, a sitting mayor, came out to Macomb County and sat in the audience to hear the State of the County address we were excited about that. ... Look at the downtown area of the City of Detroit and look at what's happening there. If you haven't, take a walk downtown ... my hope is that that that type of [revitalization] will spread into the neighborhoods."
The region's political leaders turned their attention to the looming issue regarding Detroit's solvency and the possibility of bankruptcy.
"I am the last person advocating bankruptcy. If Detroit goes bankrupt the whole region loses. ... In fact that's why I was nervous when the governor appointed Kevyn Orr ."
"The reality is Kevyn [Orr] was not hired by the City of Detroit. He was hired by the State of Michigan, so he is getting a lot of direction form the State. But at this point I don't think that Detroit is getting what it needs from the State. We want to be partners." Ficano added. "We are all concerned about bankruptcy. It will drive investment away from this area. ... I am with the mayor. We need a good partnership. If the state would have just lived up to their commitment for revenue sharing with Wayne County and city of Detroit you wouldn't see an emergency manager here now."
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 May 2013 00:15
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