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Michigan Municipal League

Press Release


Matt Bach
Director of Communications
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317; C: (810) 874-1073;


It's "State of" Speech Season

Michigan Municipal League Study Highlights Priorities in Annual State of the City Addresses

ANN ARBOR, Michigan –The President, of course, has the State of the Union Address on Jan. 30. The Governor has the State of the State later this month.

Those are famous annual “State of” addresses, but did you know they aren’t the only ones who do “state of” speeches? Across Michigan in the upcoming days, weeks and months, dozens of locally elected mayors and council presidents will be delivering “state of the city” and “state of the village” presentations highlighting key priorities, challenges and accomplishments. The speeches help improve transparency and connect local leaders with their constituents.

A new study, Michigan: State of the Cities 2017, by the Michigan Municipal League analyzes these “state of the community” presentations and shows some interesting themes and priorities that are of top concern to local leaders. The report is a good predictor of what the 2018 speeches might look like, said Shanna Draheim, the League’s director of policy development and author of the report.

“What was most surprising to me was the consistency in the content of the presentations,” Draheim said. “Whether you are in a very small community of less than 2,000 people or in a large urban center, the goals and hopes of the local elected leaders are often very similar. These “state of the community” speeches reflect that.”

The League report was modeled after the National League of Cities State of the Cities effort and highlights key findings in 10 top line categories, such as economic development and public safety. The report also breaks down how the speeches addressed specific subtopics or issues within each of those broader categories.

The 2017 State of the City report by Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett was among the 27 State of the City speeches studied by the League and delivered by local leaders from across the state between January and April, 2017. Barnett’s 2017 State of the City speech is one of the more elaborate presentations out there. With a focus on celebrating diversity, it was delivered with music, easy-to-understand graphics, and is available for viewing anytime in a high-quality video on YouTube. It even has an opening Billy Crystal-like Oscar video featuring a creatively-edited-in Madonna performing with Barnett as he drives to the State of the City address. Yeah, that Madonna – a former Rochester Hills resident.

“In our State of the City presentation we like to educate, inform and also entertain,” Barnett said of his speech. “I try to make the presentation a celebration of our community so we want it to be fun. We try to make it more of an event, rather than just a speech.”

The communities from which speeches were studied ranged in size from about 1,600 to almost 700,000 people. Some of the key findings in the League’s State of the Cities report include:

  • One hundred percent of local leaders spent significant time in their speech discussing issues related to economic development, with over 35 percent of total content across all speeches focused on the topic. 

  • The other most significant top-line issues included in speeches were infrastructure, public safety, housing, and budget/management issues.

  • Cultural economic development, a key element of placemaking and community prosperity, was the most frequently mentioned economic development subtopic, with over 90 percent of local leaders discussing it in their speeches.

  • Consistent with many other studies and surveys, roads, bridges, and water infrastructure were among the highest priority infrastructure subtopics identified in the speeches. Ninety two percent of leaders spent significant time talking about roads and bridges, for example.

  • Fifty-eight percent of local leaders spent significant time discussing issues of community policing and police relations, compared to only 20 percent of other cities across the U.S. included in the National League of Cities report.

  • Almost 60 percent of leaders devoted significant time in their speeches to addressing the financial health and financial status of their communities. This is a substantially higher percent than other U.S. cities, and is likely indicative of the growing municipal finance system crisis in Michigan.

  • About 30 percent of leaders spent significant time discussing their community’s efforts to be welcoming and diverse, and several of the speeches specifically noted the importance of immigrants in their community. Many of the State of the City speeches were delivered in February or March, during a time of substantial national dialogue around Sanctuary Cities and immigration, so this finding is not surprising.

The full report can be accessed here.

For more information, contact Matt Bach, Michigan Municipal League communications director, at and (734) 669-6317 (office) or (810) 874-1073 (cell).

About the League: Michigan Municipal League is dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The 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. Learn more at




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