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League Capital Conference Photos, Presentations Now Available

clock April 16, 2013 08:29 by author Matt Bach

Greenville Councilmember Jeanne Cunliffe attends the 2013 League Capital Conference. View more photos here. Get all Capital Conference resources, including press releases and presentation powerpoints, here.

The 2013 Michigan Municipal League Capital Conference is over, but the education received, information learned and networking opportunities gained live on. Check out presentations from the Conference here and view all the images from the two-day conference here in this collection on the League's flickr page. Event highlights included general sessions and breakout sessions with Governor Rick Snyder; Polly Trottenberg, U.S. Under Secretary for the Department of Transportation Policy; Michigan Budget Director John Nixon; Michigan Sen. Roger Kahn; Michigan Sen. Gretchen Whitmer; Michigan Rep. Wayne Schmidt; and League staff members Samantha Harkins, Nikki Brown, John LaMacchia and Summer Minnick.

There were sessions on numerous topics including the Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP); the personal property tax; term limits; the state budget; liquor control rules; the environment; town-gown partnerships; and many other issues. In addition, League President David Lossing told his personal story of donating his bone marrow to a stranger with luekemia and multiple League members signed up for the Michigan Blood Be The Match bone marrow donor program.

Also numerous awards were given including four outstanding service awards to Brian Donovan, East Grand Rapids city manager; Jaymes Vettraino, Rochester city manager; Patrick Sullivan, Northville city manager; and Kara Wood, Grand Rapids economic development director. The regional winners of the 2013 Community Excellent Awards were selected at regional roundtable meetings during the conference. The seven regional winners are Linden/Fenton/Holly from Region 1; St. Joseph in Region 2; Belding in Region 3; DeWitt in Region 4; Imlay City in Region 5; Rogers City in Region 6; and Ironwood in Region 7.

Did you get your photo taken at the 2013 MML Capital Conference? Find out in this collection on the League's flickr page. Get all Capital Conference resources, including press releases and presentation powerpoints, here.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at (734) 669-6317 and mbach@mml.org.

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League Honors Leaders from Grand Rapids, Northville, East Grand Rapids and Rochester

clock April 12, 2013 13:13 by author Matt Bach

Outstanding Service Award Winners Brian Donovan, Jaymes Vettraino, Patrick Sullivan and Kara Wood. View more photos here and here.

LANSING, Michigan – The Michigan Municipal League honored four state officials during the League's annual Capital Conference held April 9-10 in Lansing.

Officials from Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Northville, and Rochester received the League's Outstanding Service Award on Wednesday (April 10, 2013). The honor recognizes those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in supporting the League's legislative efforts in Lansing on behalf of Michigan communities.

Here is a look at the recipients:

Brian Donovan, City Manager, East Grand Rapids; Pat Sullivan, City Manager, Northville; and Jaymes Vettraino, City Manager, Rochester: In their roles of city managers in their respective communities, Donovan, Sullivan and Vettraino have been instrumental in working on legislation to give communities additional pension flexibility. In the last session, they worked with the League on a package of legislation designed to maximize resources and allow communities to make more cost-effective pension decisions. Last fall the governor signed a bill that allows communities with an AA bond rating to bond for the cost of switching from defined benefit to defined contribution plans. The League continues to work on legislation allowing communities to switch from DB to DC more easily, as well as remove barriers to more cost-effective pensions. The three have come to Lansing to testify on multiple occasions, as well as worked regularly with the League reviewing legislative language and talking to legislators. They have been instrumental in working on this legislation, and the League is grateful for their invaluable counsel.

Kara Wood, Economic Development Director, Grand Rapids: In her role as Grand Rapids Economic Development Director, Kara Wood is a major voice in the League’s Land Use and Economic Development committee. Her knowledge and insight in many areas surrounding the economic development arena make her a strong advocate for the revitalization of not only Grand Rapids but Michigan as a whole. Wood has partaken in stakeholder workgroups at the state level, most recently a workgroup on a bill to make changes to the Brownfield program that was passed into law last year. Her expertise has been utilized to help many communities across Michigan by her participation in panel discussions on various economic development issues during concurrent sessions at both past and present League Capital Conferences. Wood’s assistance at the committee level and at an advocacy level is invaluable.

For additional photos of the Outstanding Service Awards go here. For more photos from the 2013 Michigan Municipal League Capital Conference go here.

Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at (734) 669-6317.

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Taking Back the Budget Session wraps up Capital Conference

clock April 11, 2013 09:34 by author Elizabeth Shaw

Michigan Budget Director John Nixon Speaks at the 2013 Michigan Municipal League Capital Conference.

By Samantha Harkins

In the last session of the 2013 Capital Conference the League focused on the critical issue of the state budget and its impact on our own local budgets.  The League’s Vice President and Mayor of Utica Jacqueline Noonan kicked off the final session with good news announcing that the Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee just recommended a 4.8 percent increase to EVIP funding. Mayor Noonan also discussed how our communities have responded to Michigan’s tough economic times.

State Budget Director John Nixon followed Mayor Noonan and discussed how the state has turned its budget around. He focused on the many changes they have made including retirement reforms for state employees, tax changes and ending the “gimmicks” of previous budgets. The state’s economic forecast has improved, and this year there is a surplus. Director Nixon also pointed out that the State’s bond rating has improved as well as a result of these changes.

Following his remarks there was a panel including former House Fiscal Agency Director Mitch Bean and Eric Luphur from Citizens Research Council. Both Mitch and Eric are extremely familiar with the state’s budget and changes made over the last few decades. They discussed how the state’s budgeting over the last decade has pushed the problem onto local units of government (as we all know too well). In Mitch’s words: “I guess it’s better to starve someone else’s beast instead of your own, because that’s when the problem started to be shifted to local governments in a big way through revenue sharing cuts.”

Samantha Harkins is Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. She can be reached at (517) 908-0306 and sharkins@mml.org.

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Former League President and State Rep. Vicki Barnett kicks off personal property tax session

clock April 11, 2013 09:16 by author Elizabeth Shaw

Samantha Harkins talks about the PPT at the 2013 MML Capital Conference in a packed room.

By Samantha Harkins

Personal property tax reform was one of the hottest topics of the 2011-12 legislative session, and with lots of work to be done on the new proposal is a top priority of the League in this session as well.  State Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills), also a former League Board of Trustees President, kicked off the session by describing her take on PPT as a legislator during the lame duck session in December.  Rep. Barnett displayed her usual passion in describing the speed with which the legislature handled such a complex issue with little time to digest a new proposal introduced in legislation with only a few weeks left in the session.  Rep. Barnett walked legislators through the process and gave a broad overview of the reform.

Following Rep. Barnett’s remarks I presented a detailed presentation of the PPT reform. The League was involved in work groups for the first few months of the year, and we expect draft legislation in the coming weeks. At this time there are still a number of questions that remain unanswered including how the reform will deal with tax capture districts (LDFAs, TIFs, etc) and the legality of the essential services assessment.

The session was standing room only, and there were a number of insightful and thought provoking questions. The League will continue to monitor the changes to this new legislation as a key priority.

Samantha Harkins is Director of State Affairs for the Michigan Municipal League. She can be reached at 517-908-6383 and sharkins@mml.org.

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United States Under Secretary of Transportation Highlights Federal Transportation Initiatives at 2013 Capital Conference

clock April 11, 2013 07:59 by author dwestbrook

Polly Trottenbergy,m U.S. Under Secretary of Transportation Policy speaks at the 2013 MML Capital Conference.

By John LaMacchia

United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at our 2013 Capitol Conference Awards Luncheon. Due to President Obama's decision to release his budget on the same day their was a last minute change of plans and he was unable to attend. We were very fortunate that Polly Trottenberg, United States Under Secretary of Transportation for Policy, was able to attend in his place and provided a very informative presentation on federal transportation initiatives and their role in Michigan.

As a result of President Obama's budget being released on the same day as her presentation, she was able to give specific details about his plan. He is going to be moving forward with his "Fix it First Model", and will be asking for $50 billion in upfront money to jump start his vision for improving infrastructure across America and creating a 21st century transportation system. The President is proposing that $10 billion of that $50 billion be specifically concentration on local efforts and is committed to working with individual communities to integrate this investment.

Ms. Trottenberg drew a very direct correlation between the the long-term sustainability of the Federal Highway Trust Fund and decreasing revenue for road funding in Michigan. Much like Michigan, the Federal Government has not seen an increase in the federal gas tax rate in many years. This has resulted in less dollars available as more fuel efficient vehicles take to the road and the number of vehicle miles traveled decreases. Even with these problems, she highlighted the importance of needed investment to build a complete transportation system.

Other exciting news included a $40 Billion commitment by the President to the rail system in the United States. This includes $6.4 Billion to intercity rail systems. Ms. Trottenberg highlighted how the State of Michigan has made great strides in the City of Detroit with the M1 Rail project and the recent passage of the Regional Transit Authority. She also mention that a 5th round of TIGER Grants will be made available by the Federal Government and encouraged the State of Michigan to continue to look for innovative ways to use those funds.

Ms. Trottenberg's presentation was one of hope and optimism. The commitment by the Obama administration to our local communities was well received by our member and she was rewarded with a enthusiastic applause upon conclusion of her presentation.

Following her keynote address, Ms. Trottenberg was kind enough to participate in a press conference with Executive Director of the League Dan Gilmartin, League President David Lossing, Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan, and State Senator Roger Kahn. She described how investing in transportation is key to our nations economic success, and to Michigan's economic success. Executive Director Gilmartin, League President Lossing, and Mayor Noonan, highlighted the need for Michigan to move its transportation system out out the 20th Century and into the 21st Century. Legislative inaction on this issue is no longer and option. New revenue for road is needed in this state and those new dollars need to be spent in our local communities building great place were people want to live, work, and play. Senator Kahn, who has been a great leader on the issue of increasing road funding in Michigan, highlighted the benefits of saving lives, creating jobs, and saving money, as a result of investing in infrastructure.

The Michigan Municipal League was honored to have Ms. Trottenberg participate in our Capital Conference this year. We are very please with the encouraging message she delivered about President Obama's commitment to the nations transportation system, and the recognition of Michigan's critical role in that system.

John LaMacchia is a Legislative Associate for the League handling transportation issues. He can be reached at jlamacchia@mml.org or 517-908-0303.

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