Michigan Municipal League Board President Carol Shafto kicked off the League’s “2011Tour” (#mmltour on Twitter) in Kalkaska discussing the state budget situation and the impact it’s having on Michigan communities. Shafto criticized Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to have Michigan communities compete for a share of what was formerly called revenue sharing dollars and are now called Economic Vitality Incentive Program.

“The acronym for this new program would be EVIP, but I say it should be EZIP because we’re getting next to nothing,” Shafto told the 25-plus attendees at the Region 6 seminar in Kalkaska Wednesday, May 4, 2011. “I am angry and I do have my rant on that we’re having to be put in a position where our communities - the backbone of this state - are at risk. You can’t have strong Michigan without having strong cities. How can you undermine cities and have a strong Michigan. I don't like how cities are having to compete against each other for this funding. We should be helping each other, not competing. That really does a disservice to our citizens. I know our communities will somehow survive, I don’t know how yet, but we’ll survive.”

Others speaking at the seminar were League CEO Dan Gilmartin; League COO Anthony Minghine; League's Director of State Affairs Summer Minnick; Penny Hill, Kalkaska Village Manager; and Eric Grandstaff, Merit Member Relations Manager.

The Region 6 seminar (encompassing the northern half of Michigan’s lower peninsula) was the first of seven in a series of “Regional Meetings” the League is having throughout the state as part of it’s “2011 Tour”. The Tour culminates Oct. 4-7 with the League’s annual Convention, taking place this year in Grand Rapids during one of Michigan’s premiere events – ArtPrize. The Regional Meetings give Michigan Municipal League members a chance to hear from League staff and state officials about the latest municipal-related legislation in Lansing and ways communities are becoming the types of areas where people want to live, work and play. The next Regional meeting is Friday, May 4, in Hamtramck. The League is still accepting registrations from members for upcoming regional meetings Ludington (May 11), Marine City (May 18), East Lansing (May 20), Houghton (May 26-27) and Saginaw (June 1). View the full regional schedule here. Follow the tour on Twitter at #mmltour.

It is during these regional meetings, where attendees select the regional Community Excellence Award Winner. Each regional winner will have a chance to win the statewide 2011 CEA Trophy. Read more about this “Race for the Cup” here. Four communities competed for the Region 6 CEA honor. They are West Branch’s “Fabulous Fridays” program; Hillman’s “Extreme Makeover” bridge and street reconstruction project; Rogers City’s $7.6 million water and sewer project; and Petoskey’s Bear River Recreation Area and Whitewater Kayaking and Canoeing Adventure Course. The Region 6 winner will be announced later today.

The Michigan Municipal League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington D.C. and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services. For more information, visit www.mml.org.

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

Alpena Mayor and MML Board President Carol Shafto speaks at Region 6 meeting in Kalkaska May 4, 2011.

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