As 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