Who will fight for Michigan’s struggling cities, like Ypsilanti, against the Snyder budget?

msmichiganmagicAs we’ve discussed here in the past, the budget put forward by our new Governor, Rick Snyder, would appear to put a disproportionate amount of the burden on aging, urban communities, like Ypsilanti. Here are just a few of the ways that Ypsilanti will be impacted by the new budget if it is ratified.

• First, we will loose a significant amount of funding from the State. In the words of City Council member Pete Murdock, who has weighed in on earlier posts, the Snyder budget would mean a “$1.2 million loss in revenue sharing, and (a close to) $60K (reduction) in fire protection money,” which has been paid to the city annually for providing fire protection services for Eastern Michigan University, which is a sate school. (It should be pointed out that this $60,000 is already considerably less than the State, according to their own guidelines, should be reimbursing the City.) Together, this would mean an almost 10% reduction in our general fund budget, which would clearly push our already struggling City into the abyss of financial collapse.

• Second, the elimination of Brownfield Redevelopment tax credits could hurt any redevelopment efforts with regard to the Water Street parcel, as they were going to allow for the necessary build-out of infrastructure. “The irony,” according to former Ypsi City Planner Richard Murphy, “is that the elimination of these credits is being pitched in the name of ‘leveling the playing field’ and ‘stop(ping the) picking (of) winners and losers’, but, unfortunately, will do exactly the opposite. These and similar credits were created to level the playing field, and address the fact that factors like soil contamination, obsolete buildings, asbestos & lead, etc., made it difficult to do business in places like Ypsilanti – and to level the playing field by balancing out some of those extra costs. (At the same time, of course, we get public benefits out of it, like cleaning up soil contamination, removing health hazards, and so on.)” And, with Snyder’s budget, this program would be gone, forcing growth away from our cities and into the surrounding townships, eliminating green space, and contributing even more toward the sprawl Michigan is famous for. (Remember when I was telling you that Boston, Manhattan, and San Francisco would all fit into the boundaries of Detroit?)

• Third, the Snyder budget would eliminate the Historic Preservation tax credits, which had been used locally to finance projects like the Mack & Mack building renovation (where SPARK East is now located), and the Mellencamp building renovation, which is currently underway (where the Rocket is now located). “(Stewart) Beal,” according to Richard Murphy, “has said that successful redevelopment of the Thompson Block will depend on the Historic Preservation tax credits (and he’s not wrong).”

I’ll stop there for now, but I’m sure there are more points which could be added. I’m sure there are other areas where it can be shown that Michigan’s aging cities are bearing the brunt of Snyder’s budget. I suspect, for instance, that the per-pupil education cuts that Snyder is calling for would affect our schools to a greater degree, than say communities like Ann Arbor and West Bloomfield, but I don’t yet have the evidence to back that assertion up. My point is, we need to start pulling all of this information together in one place, and building a coalition between communities that find themselves in a similar situation… Toward that end, I put the word out through the site a few days ago, and heard back from Richard Murphy, that SEMCOG and the Michigan Municipal League would probably be the best situated to coordinate the response. (I had suggested that the Michigan Suburbs Alliance might be a candidate, but he corrected me, as you can read here, in his response.)

Mark, much as I appreciate the shout-out to one of my favorite organizations (one that employs me, incidentally), most 501(c)(3)s are pretty limited in their ability to do this sort of lobbying, based on funding sources and various regulations around them.

This is more traditionally the realm of SEMCOG or the Michigan Municipal League, each of which, by merit of their funding structures, are much better positioned to take the lead on legislative issues like this.

The Suburbs Alliance has made formal testimony against the EFM bill, which you can find on record via the House Committee on Local, Intergovernmental, and Regional Affairs’ website, along with other parties’ testimony. However, I’d look to the other organizations mentioned as having this type of legislative lobbying as much more a “core competency”. (Ypsi is a member of all three.)

So, would I be right to assume that our leaders in Ypsi are putting pressure on SEMCOG and/or the Michigan Municipal League to respond? I’d like to think that’s the case, but my fear is that most of the folks in the running of cities like Ypsi are just trying to figure out how to deal with the situation once the budget passes, and not how to fight it.

It’s probably also worth noting that the other side – the side backing the Governor’s budget – isn’t sitting still. They’re out building a coalition to support its passage. Here, on that subject, is a comment left yesterday by Glen S.

…(T)oday’s Detroit News is reporting that a new group, “Value for Michigan,” has formed to support and lobby for the Snyder/Republican agenda, and is already building a Facebook and Twitter presence, and asking people to sign an online petition, etc.

In the article, a Snyder spokesperson takes great pains to explain that this new group is “a totally independent effort and the Gov. Snyder administration is not affiliated in any way, shape or form.”

Personally, me thinks the Governor doth protest too much — but even if true, it isn’t hard to imagine who is likely behind “Value for Michigan” — the usual National Chamber of Commerce and Club for Growth types, with perhaps a little Koch money thrown in for good measure.

In any case, it is clear that whatever effort we organize to defeat this will need to gear up quickly, since I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the “Value for Michigan” ads debut…

And, later, we received the following update from Glen on Value for Michigan, and who’s behind it.

I checked the election committee database on the Michigan SOS website, and “Value for Michigan” is registered as an “independent political action committee” with John P. Yob as its treasurer.

A quick Google search turned up the following biography for Mr. Yob, courtesy of the website for — I kid you not — the Missouri Federation of Young Republicans:

“John Patrick Yob is a leading Republican political consultant in Michigan with significant experience in national politics. He has appeared in the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, and numerous national mediums including USA Today and Inside Edition.

He started his political life in College Republicans and rose to the position of Executive Director and General Chairman of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC). Former CRNC leaders include Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed.

Yob was the lead consultant for Terri Lynn Land’s successful race for Secretary of State of Michigan in 2002 and assisted with Mike Cox’s 5200-vote margin of victory the same year. Land won with a larger margin than any other open seat victory in Michigan in fifty years. Yob also handles media relations for John Ramsey, father of slain beauty queen Jon Bene’t Ramsey.

Yob has owned a political polling company since 2001 is currently a lead partner in Strategic National Consulting, a firm with clients including Senator John McCain’s Straight Talk Express, the Republican National Committee Member Senate Fund, and numerous legislative clients.

John is 29 years old and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

How could things possibly go wrong when you’ve got a leader of an organization who not only handles public relations for John Ramsey, but proudly follows in the footsteps of such notable Americans as Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Grover Norquist, and Ralph Reed? (note: Given Yob’s ties to Cox, I wouldn’t be surprised if our friend Andrew Shirvell was also somehow involved.)

The big take-away in all of this, as I see it, is that we need to organize and do so quickly, because they sure as hell are… We need to articulate, in simple language, why the Governor’s proposal is wrong for Michigan’s cities, and we need to rally support around a different vision for the future of our State. And, that’ll be the hard part. We’ll need to offer something better. It’s not enough, in my opinion, to just say that the Governor’s plan is wrong. We need to offer a viable alternative.

I should add that I don’t think the Governor is necessarily a bad guy. I don’t, like the Governors of Ohio and Wisconsin, that he’s out to break the unions, for instance. I just think he’s doing what he thinks is best to entice businesses to come to Michigan and create jobs here. That’s his single focus. And, for what it’s worth, I agree with him. That absolutely needs to happen. I just don’t think that his vision for how to get us there is going to give us the kind of state that people want to move to. What companies, for instance, would want to put down roots in a community where it’s the norm to have 60 kids in a class?

So, I think it’s our job to build an alliance, and make the case for Michigan’s cities… I know I don’t speak for everyone, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that most residents of Ypsilanti are willing to sacrifice in order to set our state on the right path. I don’t think, however, we’re the type to passively sit by when we see that the burden isn’t being shared equally by all. What we want is a budget that is equitable, that sees our kids educated, our resources protected, and our entrepreneurs encouraged.

Those of you interested in reading more should check out the following posts.
-Snyder passes the buck to local Michigan communities
-Rick Snyder’s budget and the impact on cities like Ypsilanti
-The state of Ypsilanti

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8 Comments

  1. Josh
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    reading the above comments, i’m noticing some of those statistics about per-pupil funding. how can that POSSIBLY be fair?

    ann arborites voted against a millage two years ago that would have given more money to the district than was taxed to every school district in the area except ann arbor. this is the first one that i can think of because i wrote a paper on it, but i’m sure there have been more.

  2. EOS
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Josh,

    I don’t believe richer=smarter, nor smarter = richer. But, it is well documented that high academic achievement is correlated with high SES.

    There are plenty of wealthy people who are dumb as a rock. And there are plenty of extremely intelligent people who don’t pursue high incomes. But when you compare the aggregate average IQ of adults living in wealthy communities to adults living in poor communities, the authors claim that the wealthy communities also have higher average IQ’s and I think this is likely to be true.

    A teaching degree is a 4 year BA/BS. Most persons who become teachers don’t do so because they are looking for a high income. However, the average teacher’s salary is above the average workers salary.

    Persons with high IQ’s are attracted to obtain advanced degrees because they excel at academics. For example, people who are smart in science may decide to go to Medical School. But their IQ is not increased by attending Medical School, they were smart to begin with. But with a medical degree, they will earn above average incomes, live in wealthier communities (on average) and pass their intelligence on to their children. If a person has a low IQ and struggles with science it won’t help them if we spend more money on Medical Schools and hire more Professors to teach them.

    The comment about WWJD was a response to a direct question from Caring Parent, and I agree that it is not relevant to the argument but I think I got a couple of people to smile.

  3. Glen S.
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Update: The so-called Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) bill, which has already passed the Michigan House, has now been approved by a Senate committee — will likely be passed by the full Senate sometime today, and could be signed into law as soon as this week.

    This bill is so extreme, so unwarranted, and frankly, so undemocratic, that it is finally starting to get some national attention. A “recommended” post this morning on the national political website “Daily Kos” carries the following headline:

    “Michigan Governor Seeks Emergency Powers”

    … and goes on to describe the bill this way:

    “The governor of Michigan is trying to force through the legislature a bill that would establish emergency rule, LITERALLY. Gov. Snyder is seeking emergency powers that would enable him to 1) unilaterally declare a “financial emergency”, 2) disincorporate entire municipal governments, 3) dismiss elected officials with no replacement election to follow, 4) seize control of local civil services, 5) hand taxpayer money, services and POWERS to private, for-profit firms.”

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/08/954169/-Michigan-Governor-Seeks-Emergency-Powers

    I’d also like to draw everyone’s attention to a recent article in the Michigan Messenger, entitled “Bill Offers Few Guidelines for Use of Emergency Managers’ Powers.”

    I’ll provide a direct link to the full article below, but first I’d like to share a sample, in which Eric Scorsone, who is one of the “experts” hired by the Snyder Administration to train dozens of new EFMs, discusses the challenges of the new, uncharted territory this law exposes:

    “Scorsone said that he thinks the governor wants to push communities to make hard choices about their budgets by showing them that if they don’t make painful cuts, a state appointed Emergency Manager will do it for them.

    The proposed bill does not give details as to what actions an EM should take first when it comes to restructuring a town, and an appointed manager could decide to start with extreme measures such as dismantling a town, Scorsone said.

    “It’s unclear to me how that would actually work,“ he said, “how services will be provided.”

    “Unlike in a corporate liquidation, the citizens don’t just go away.”

    Working out the details of some of these extreme measures is stuff for another more advanced training, he said.

    “In April or May we may get into questions like how does one dissolve a town.”

    http://michiganmessenger.com/47013/bill-offers-no-guidelines-for-use-of-emergency-managers-powers

    I want to repeat that: “Unlike in a corporate liquidation, the citizens don’t just go away.”

    Indeed.

    Folks, it may already be too late to stop this particular bill, but it ain’t over yet … so please call or write your local and state elected officials TODAY to urge them to oppose this disastrous bill, which not only threatens the future of local, democratically-elected control of many Michigan communities like Ypsilanti, but also many school districts.

  4. Glen S.
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Update 2: PLEASE watch — and forward to everyone you know — the following clip of Rachel Maddow exposing the Republicans’ EFM legislation on last night’s show:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#41979558

  5. Edward
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    What options do we have at this point, Glen? Isn’t the Senate stacked against us?

  6. French Sand
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    If our city council/mayor/manager don’t offer a response to this, they’re worthless.

  7. French Sand
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Question for Murph: if, let’s say, the Governor took control of a city, fired its council, disincorporated it, and so forth, could (and if so, how) that city resist? I don’t only mean how could its citizenry resist, but legally, could the City itself push back?

  8. D
    Posted April 17, 2011 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    So far, it looks like the answer is no one.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] his controversial budget proposals and the national attention that he’s been garnering of late with regard to the whole […]

  2. By State of the City 2013: Shaping Ypsilanti on March 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

    […] more about what we were doing as a community to push back against a state which seems determined to see its aging cities destroyed and shift the tax burden to the working class. (Also, as you’ll see, I’ve added links […]

  3. […] to the well-documented crimes of the financial industry, and the closing of our local factories), evaporating state support, looming bond payments (for the unfortunately-timed Water Street land speculation boondoggle), and […]

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