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Robin Beltramini

Robin Beltramini was elected to the Troy City Council in 2001, and previously served that city as a member and chair of both the Board of Review and the Planning Commission, and served on the Board of Zoning Appeals.  She serves the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments as a member of the General Assembly, Transportation Improvement Plan Development Committee, Executive Committee, and as vice chair of the Community and Economic Development Advisory Council.  Robin serves as vice chair of NLC’s Community Futures Panel on Democratic Governance and is a member of NLC’s Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Affairs Steering committee.  Additionally, she has served on a number of site management and district educational advisory committees and the state committee on gifted education.  Robin has served as MML’s vice president since 2007. 

Monday

April 14, 2008

Works and plays well with others. . .

Troy’s population is changing.  Currently, we are the second most ethnically diverse city in the state. (Hats off to Ann Arbor for being #1.)  Eighty-two different languages are spoken in our homes.  We have millionaires and welfare recipients residing in our town.  We have 68 faith institutions.  Half of our residents have four-year college degrees, and many more with advanced degrees.

Actually, all this creates great synergy.  Our foreign-born residents are anxious to share their heritage and culture with others.  We’ve created an Ethnic Issues Advisory Committee that coordinates the “Ethni-City” booths at our annual Troy Daze Festival.  In the past, this group has also sponsored the “Sights and Sounds” program which spent one afternoon a month sharing a program of games, religion(s), dress and culture, music and language, and geography and government—one country at a time.

The Troy School District, City of Troy, and the local realtors sponsor a Sunday afternoon showcase event, “Live and Learn in Troy,” annually.  Beginning at the Community Center, there are experts to talk about the strengths of the school district and the city.  There are realtors to discuss home buying in Troy, one-on-one with prospective residents.  There are simultaneous open houses all over town—with listing information and a map provided at the Community Center.  It is a cooperative effort that increases everyone’s bottom line.

Our school district uses both seniors and business people as tutors and resources for students.  It’s good modeling behavior for students to witness and a worthwhile community service for the adults.

Another “people-to-people” effort is our senior-to-senior computer program, dubbed SeniorNet.  Senior citizens have children and grandchildren that prefer email to any other form of communication.  And, seniors listen when they’re told that often the Internet is more secure for paying bills than their mailbox on the street.  All of this generates a need to know how to use the Internet.  We have some very tech-savvy seniors who are willing to volunteer their time tutoring their peers.  All it costs the city is a bank of computers in the Community Center, which would be there anyway!

We advocate this sort of arrangement for community fundraising as well.  A few years ago we had the Beaver Tales project (Big Beaver Road, get it?).  The proceeds from those painted beavers were split equally among the Troy Historical Society, the Troy Community Coalition, and the Troy Community Foundation.  It was a fun and profitable project for all.

We’ve initiated a few government-to-government efforts as well.  Fleet maintenance is one.  Troy has a full-service department.  Due to staffing and time requirements for our own fleet, we found that we could add vehicles to the schedule without adding staff.  Therefore, we now contract our services to surrounding communities and the refuse authority.  Our staff maintains their vehicles for a fee.  The same sort of model is used for police dispatch services.  The fees involved are less than the communities would pay for commensurate internal staff and service and help defray our overhead costs. 

These are just a few of the ideas.  They’re endless really.  Recreation programs and facilities, projects. . .Think like you were eight again to work and play well with others.

You may contact Robin Beltramini at 248-879-8898 or email RBeltram@wideopenwest.com..

Check back tomorrow to hear Robin’s thoughts on living a balanced life.

 

Tuesday

April 15, 2008

Live a balanced life. . .

Robert Fulghum in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten went on to say, “. . . learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”  It works now, and Troy believes it will work in the future as well.

As our communities change, people come (and mostly go), businesses change, we need to think about who we are as a community, what we are becoming, and who we want to be.  How do we maintain a balance—a balance that will keep our taxes reasonable for all, our essential services adequate to superb, and our residents and businesses happy to locate within our boundaries and to stay and grow?  There are some pertinent, linear questions to ask ourselves:

Who are we now?  What are our strengths?  What do we do best?  Who do we want to be?  What is our preferred future?  What do we have that we can use to attain that preferred future?  What do we need to add?

There are lots of ways to answer these questions.  Some communities do it with surveys of their taxpayers or program participants.  Others hold Council retreats.  Troy’s method was to gather a group of regular people to talk amongst themselves. 


In 2006 we convened a group of over 150 citizens to evaluate who we were, what we did best, and where we wanted to be by 2020.  There were a series of meetings, most of them highly focused on areas the community felt were important to our preferred future.  The seven task forces were composed of residential and business taxpayers, leaders of community organizations, members of the faith community, and residents who simply wanted to have a voice in our future.  Each task force had citizen leadership, a specific focus, and an appropriate staff liaison. 

The meetings were open to all, with many having ad hoc contributors.  The areas we believe require focus for a balanced life in our future are:  Civic Infrastructure—community awareness, governance, citizenship and collaboration; Image and Feel—to look and feel of the City of Troy; Lifestyle—opportunities for citizens to actualize social and recreational interests and needs; Lifetime Learning—access to personal, professional and organizational intellectual growth and stimulus; Mobility—physical and virtual pathways to movement; Regionalism—roles and relationships with area units of government and other entities; and Wealth Creation—prosperity for individuals, organizations and the City of Troy.  The entire report, Vision 2020, is available online at Troy’s website, www.troymi.gov.

You may contact Robin Beltramini at 248-879-8898 or email RBeltram@wideopenwest.com..

Check back tomorrow to hear Robin’s thoughts on using time wisely.

 

Wednesday

April 16, 2008

Uses time wisely. . .

I told you about our Vision 2020.  Great ideas often sit on a shelf, particularly when they are BIG ideas as is our Vision 2020. 

With Troy now being 95% developed, we must recognize that we won’t see significant growth in revenues without substantial change and redevelopment.  Many of the businesses located here do entirely different kinds of work than they did even 10 years ago.  Jobs not even conceived at the time of Troy’s 1957 founding make up most of our current employment opportunities.  But, our Master Land Use Plan was adopted in 1977.  Even the intervening amendments do not truly anticipate the preferred vision of 2020.


Enough Troy leaders are baby boomers who remember the “use time wisely” lesson.  We are using this time of slumping development to redraft our Master Land Use Plan.  We’ve incorporated the ideas from the citizen vision, the area specific plans for the Big Beaver and Maple Road Corridor, the plan for the transit center in the southwest corner of the city, and our realization that “green” with all its definitions is important to future success.  The next challenge is to rewrite the zoning ordinance and development standards to structure the implementation of the vision.  That way, when business picks up, we are prepared to redevelop based on a preferred future rather than an obsolete framework. 

You may contact Robin Beltramini at 248-879-8898 or email RBeltram@wideopenwest.com..

 

Check back tomorrow to hear Robin’s thoughts on caring for materials.

 

Thursday

April 17, 2008

Cares for Materials. . .

There is a stewardship to what we do.  It’s not just the fiduciary decisions regarding allocation of the taxpayer dollar.  Each of our communities has both a heritage and a vision.  One builds upon the other, hopefully seamlessly.

In Troy’s case, there is a community value of providing recreational and cultural activities.  Some of the ways we have showcased that value are our 14 existing parks, two municipal golf courses, a nature center, family aquatic center, a historical museum, and a community center with indoor and outdoor sports sites.  We have 11 other park sites yet to be developed.

Let’s start with history.  Literally, history.  We operate a museum and historic village with two full-time and nine part-time staff members—and LOTS of volunteers.  The operation is funded cooperatively between the City and the Troy Historical Society.  One of the early Troy City Halls serves as the administration building.  Nine other historic buildings were moved from elsewhere in the city to form a small village atmosphere.  Another historic home and a barn are planned additions with Historical Society fundraising well underway.


In the north end of town there is the 100-acre wood.  The Lloyd A. Stage Nature Center contains a wooded area where wildlife run free, sugar maple trees to tap for syrup, the proverbial creek, a wide variety of hardwoods, a pond, and a classroom/administration building.  The nature center adjoins the Troy Farm which is a homestead built before the Civil War.  The Farm also contains the Senior Community Gardens, where our senior citizens can continue to grow fruits, vegetables, fresh flowers, or even weeds of their choice in assigned beds.


Our two golf courses were designed with nature in mind.  Sylvan Glen is an 18 hole, par 71, 6,600 yard course.  It is a challenging blend of water (a stream), trees (lots), and sand (human-designed locations).  It is a natural course where you are likely to see a variety of hawk species using the perches provided by the remains of deceased ash trees.  Sanctuary Lake Golf Course is a links style par 71 course.  It is a reclaimed and covered landfill site.  The course can be tricky; it’s hilly, has a large pond, and some wooded areas to traverse on your way from one hole to the other.  With the heather to hide them, you are likely to see all kinds of birds and small creatures in addition to the blue herons that live in a nearby rookery.


At the Civic Center you will find all sorts of recreational opportunities.  The tennis center is a public-private partnership.  It is a private facility in the winter when the bubble is up and a public facility during the warmer months.  You can swim indoors (at the Community Center) or outdoors (at the Family Aquatic Center).  Bocce ball and shuffleboard courts are a hit with the senior citizens.  Walking trails and the 20-acre natural woodland are appreciated by people of all ages.  The skate park is used by skaters and skateboarders of all skill levels, and was partially paid for through youth fundraising efforts.

We have tried to use what we have, carefully, and build upon that to meet community needs.  Information on each and every one of these sites is available on our website, www.troymi.gov.

You may contact Robin Beltramini at 248-879-8898 or email RBeltram@wideopenwest.com..

Check back tomorrow to hear Robin’s thoughts on lessons from childhood.

 

Friday

April 18, 2008

Lessons of Childhood. . .

No offense meant to anyone, but what we do is not rocket science.  It is simply the thoughtful and creative application of common sense to ever-changing situations.  We know that we can’t run the world like the child in the Judith Viorst poem.  But, difficult times often take a child’s simplicity of thought.

A child shops for a new shirt with the coins in his pocket.  A student buys books with the money in her account.  A city provides services based on the revenue it can reasonably expect to collect, or supplement with already known resources.  We can still dream big dreams, but we have to set a plan to achieve them.  Remember learning about “delayed gratification?”  Now is the time that we all understand the true meaning of that phrase.  Put away a little at a time, like a child saving for college, so that we can achieve that big dream.  Do the right thing, which may not be the popular thing.

Common sense drives all of us.  It is what motivated us to take on this line of work.  For professional staff, it is the desire to implement the mechanics of making a community the best that it can be.  For the elected officials, it is the desire to make a difference in the direction of our community.  Both the professionals and the amateurs share the vision of having a positive impact on the lives of our citizens.  We can do that by being thoughtful citizens ourselves.


There are enough self-help books, how to run government books, balancing a budget books on the market to keep passengers on the Mackinac Island ferry fleets (all three of them!) reading for the entire season, with never a duplicate.  At the end of the voyages, what would be the collective lessons learned?  My impression so far, is “little beyond common sense.”  So, when you join us on the Island in the fall, leave the self-help books at home; enjoy the ride, your colleagues, and the scenery!  Use your common sense and the lessons of childhood.

You may contact Robin Beltramini at 248-879-8898 or email RBeltram@wideopenwest.com..

Check back on Monday to hear from Kelli Sobel, Executive Secretary for the State Tax Commission and David Lee, Executive Secretary for the State Assessors Board.

 

 

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