Guest column: Citizen input sought on Michigan’s to-do list

By John Austin/Michigan Economic Center

All of us who live in -- and love – Michigan have some deep-rooted sense of what makes the state special. Our great outdoors and spectacular lakes. Our cars, the open road, hauling the camper or snowmobile Up North. Great colleges and universities that bring us together on football Saturdays and give us a shot at a world-class education close to home. The outsized history and special vibe of cities such as Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo that -- through triumph, tragedy and rebirth -- fascinate us still.

We need to appreciate that these foundational assets of our state -- great schools and universities, quality roads and transportation system, historic cities, clean water and great parks – also are the most important assets to rebuild, if we are to reboot our state’s economy. They have given us a unique identity and strategic economic advantages for many years, while also engendering pride among our citizens and making Michigan a desirable place to live and work. 

And these assets are public goods -- the things we do together as a community with our tax dollars; ones that the private sector and market does not provide on its own. 

And our public goods are severely degraded: A down economy, combined with 12 years of state tax rate cuts, has dramatically reduced our investment. Michigan has a yawning $1.5 billion hole in fixing roads and bridges; our citizens are poorly served by transit. Community revenue sharing has been slashed 32.7 percent. Michigan’s high-quality higher education is now being priced out of reach: tuition has doubled at public universities, state support for community colleges has fallen by a third.

Once a conservation leader, Michigan is 47th out of 50 states in conservation funding. Environmental cleanup spending has dropped dramatically. Beach closures have doubled.

To thrive anew, we must tap what we value most in this state, what is uniquely special about Michigan, and build it up again:

Great and affordable schools and universities that produce well-educated people, attract top talent, and do the research that brings economy-changing innovation and new enterprises.

The 21st century infrastructure needed to move goods, services and ideas in the global economy. 

Communities where our kids, and those from outside the state, want to live and work -- with parks, libraries, arts and culture, transit, entertainment and safe and exciting neighborhoods.

We must polish our “Pure Michigan” jewels to shine anew: clean water, rivers, parks and forests.

Better connecting what is special about Michigan — and how to turbocharge it for economic growth -- is the work we are about in the Michigan Economic Center’s “Michigan Dream Restored” Initiative. Supported by a $225,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, guided by a multi-sector advisory board of diverse Michigan stakeholders, we will be having deep discussions with Michigan citizens over the coming months about what they value and what is special about Michigan.

A key feature of the initiative is the use of sophisticated citizen-value identification tools, drawn from private-sector consumer market research, to better match public investment ideas with what Michigan residents value most — and what they are willing to pay for. We are going to ask the people of Michigan what’s special about this state and, with their help, inform specific public good investment ideas that have a better chance at winning support in the public sphere. In doing so, we have a shot at restoring the uniquely Michigan version of the American Dream.

Join us at  www.mieconomiccenter.org.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

Like what you’re reading in Bridge? Please consider a donation to support our work!

We are a nonprofit Michigan news site focused on issues that impact all citizens. In an era of click bait and biased news, we focus on taking the time to learn both sides of a story before we post it. Bridge stories are always free, but our work costs money. If our journalism helps you understand and love Michigan more, please consider supporting our work. It takes just a moment to donate here.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

Jeffrey Poling
Tue, 10/09/2012 - 12:24pm
If you believe as I do, that the NITC bridge is critical to Detroit and Michigan's economic growth and future than we have less than a month to correct Matty Moroun's lies and distortions. This should be our Number One Priority. Mr. Moroun has inundated nightly TV programing with his negative anti- NITC bridge propoganda. But the most stunning aspect is the total silence by the Canadian and Michigan governments and business interests in defense of the new bridge. WHERE ARE THEY? It is time to take the gloves off. Every one of Moroun's distortions, from Michigan's tax libility to foreign labor and steel must be forcefully and immediately challenged. Continued silence only adds credence to his lies.
Charles Richards
Tue, 10/09/2012 - 1:57pm
"And our public goods are severely degraded: A down economy, combined with 12 years of state tax rate cuts, has dramatically reduced our investment." There is no doubt our public goods need investment, but the lack of investment does not result from "tax rate cuts" State revenue has declined, but that was in spite of tax increases under Granholm. "Once a conservation leader, Michigan is 47th out of 50 states in conservation funding. Environmental cleanup spending has dropped dramatically. Beach closures have doubled." This makes the all too common mistake of judging public policy by inputs rather than results. "Communities where our kids, and those from outside the state, want to live and work — with parks, libraries, arts and culture, transit, entertainment and safe and exciting neighborhoods." A good economy is necessary to afford these things.
Duane
Tue, 10/09/2012 - 6:10pm
"We are going to ask the people of Michigan what’s special about this state and, with their help, inform specific public good investment ideas that have a better chance at winning support in the public sphere." I notice there is no interest or concern about the credibility of this effort. It seems people will be asked, but nothing about how that information will be shared with those that are asked or about how the information will be compiled or weighted. I guess it is back to trust John Austin because he doesn't seem to have thought about how we can verify. I apologize for my skeptism, but we have seen so many of these survey the public and then the information disappears and all we hear about is what those who were doing the surveys knew before the surveys started. One of my former employer always required that before we did any survey we develop and shared the means we would use to validate the survey finding, share the survey findings (including the raw data), and how we would review with the survey group (at least a representative sample) their thoughts on the data and our findings. This was all to ensure that we used the data for was based on good information not somehting we already had the answer for and were looking to support that answer. I think the Lake Michgian sunsets are one of those pure Michigan atributes, but I would not want anyone spending money trying to improve them. I think the fall colors are another atribute, but to have someone spending money to get a better mix of reds and yellows seems a bit too ambitous. Ah, I am getting ahead of the sophisticatd survey.
Mike
Mon, 10/15/2012 - 10:44am
Whether from Mr. Austin's effort or the CFM's community conversations, these are great opportunities for the general public to have a voice in the direction of the state. The CFM has made every effort to include voices from all over the state and had an open door for any with the interest and initiative to participate. Their report on Michigan's Defining Moment openly conveyed the results of the conversations. Should they or Mr. Austin be held to the same rigorous sampling standards as a Pew poll? I don't think super pacs worry about that, nor do we require it at the voting booth. (In fact some activity scheme to repress representative sampling there.) Rather than challenge the credibility before the effort has even begun, why not laud the spirit of democratic participation that underlies the intent?
John Q. Public
Tue, 10/09/2012 - 11:15pm
I really value the ability of Michigan citizens to use the referendum and initiative processes to override the lousy policies forced upon us by our totally unrepresentative state government.
John Saari
Sun, 10/14/2012 - 8:50am
Think Community. Stop sending our tax dollars up to the Fed and State inefficient departments. Take pride in and responsibility for our Community.
Sun, 10/14/2012 - 2:12pm
I was elected as a trustee in 2008 and have attend 4 MTA conferences several business leaders of Michigan, Michigan defining moments conferences, Michigan State Benchmarking program the past 3 years, And I have to say there is great concern about the future State and Country for our children and grandchildren expressed at these conferences. I realize the problems look overwhelming but I realize that our local government leaders could do a lot to improve the state of our economy. Make your community a place where people want to live and work. In our township we have a balanced budget but for the past year our fund balance now stands at 115% of the budget. Parks and rec budget in 1998 was 33,000 in 2011 it was 13,000. The township operation was $120,000 in 1998 in 2011 it was $370,000 for an increase of about $250,000 in 12 years. We are now investing $250,000 more for township operation and $20,000 less for our parks programs. This is an example of overspending on government operations less spending on the things that really matter. Dale Westrick trustee Serving the residents of the township[!!