Print Friendly and PDF

The Municipal Finance Dilemma: Cities Must Be the Engine

By Kevin Bull

As Michigan continually ranks dead last in the country for funding infrastructure and services that improve citizens’ overall quality of life, investing in cities must remain a top priority, panelists said in the session, “Not Open for Business: Why Disinvestment in Michigan Cities Is Hampering Economic Opportunity” hosted by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Delivering opening remarks, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI 5), who was born and raised in Flint, reminded Conference attendees that the Flint water crisis was a warning and not an anomaly.

“We need a national conversation and especially a state conversation about what it takes to ensure the people living in any community have the basic elements of a civil society: police services, fire services, parks that are mowed and maintained, roads, water systems,” Kildee said.

“We are dead last in this state in providing direct support to cities and there are consequences to that decision. It is incumbent upon policymakers to accept this reality and to do something about it.”

Kildee was joined on stage by former St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, former Plante Moran managing partner Gordon Krater, and Anthony Minghine, chief operating officer and deputy executive director for the Michigan Municipal League in a discussion moderated by Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.

Key Takeaways:

  • The reason Detroit lost the Amazon bid was a lack of strong services, transit and talent.
  • 86 percent of Michigan residents prefer their taxes are spent to solve local problems and more than $8.1 billion has been diverted away from communities by the state.
  • The city of St. Paul identified a need for public-private partnerships to fund the development of a community arts center, minor league ballpark, and other quality of life amenities to attract new companies and jobs.
  • Urban centers are economic drivers. However, without renewed investment in infrastructure companies and employees will leave.
  • There must be a shared sense of responsibility in the region. It isn’t just about Detroit.
  • People are willing to pay for services and increased taxes if they have perceived value, such as money specifically earmarked for parks, libraries or police services.
  • Creating desirable communities to live, work and play can attract and retain much-needed talent.
  • The mindset that large cities are sucking resources from small cities is detrimental to infrastructure investment.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio as part of a collaborative partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber for the 2018 Mackinac Policy Conference.