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Bridging the Forums - Thoughts & Ideas


AudienceRoger Martin, the moderator for the League’s Public Policy Forums, opened the second forum by leading the discussion on “Bridging the Forums.”  His introductory comments provided the participants with a brief review of what was learned at the first forum held at the Detroit Institute of Arts and how that information and understanding impact the focus of the second forum.

In Roger’s words, the first forum provided the nuts and bolts of understanding from a planning and zoning perspective of what makes a successful community in today’s society and what doesn’t.  Roger emphasized that the second forum would focus on the participants as “place makers” within their communities—doing the things necessary to ensure a better tomorrow for our communities.

Roger reviewed what the participants had learned at the first forum.  The common factor in the states that are prospering in the U. S. today is the existence of at least one major thriving metropolitan area with a high concentration of young, creative talent.  Chicago, Minneapolis, and Seattle are clearly recognized as metropolitan areas that attract and retain the millennial population.  Not a single city in Michigan resembles this.  But as was pointed out, we know that young, creative people are seeking communities that offer a system of transportation with mixed-use, walkable downtowns offering art and culture.  Recognizing that the state and federal governments are not going to develop these areas, Roger asked the participants, as community leaders, “What are you going to do?”

Al McGeehan, mayor of Holland, responded by saying that Holland intends to create great neighborhoods and to work with the private sector to build downtowns.  Jane Bais-DiSessa, city manager of Berkley, indicated that the city council took a leap of faith and is actively promoting the city’s attributes—its walkability and its parks.  “We’re showing what we’re doing.”  Gerald Peterson, city manager of Negaunee in the Upper Peninsular, noted that efforts are being made to promote the region—building the natural and historical attributes (mining and winter) and linking its history with trails.  Gretchen Driskell, mayor of Saline, commented on the importance of regionalism.  She indicated that having business partners leveraging assets in a region helps to reduce artificial barriers created by borders.

In a response to what communities are doing with respect to mass transit, Eric DeLong, deputy city manager of Grand Rapids, offered that Grand Rapids focuses on its master objective, the Rapid (a regional transit plan) and trying to plan—and stay—ahead.  “Things are starting to change.”

Roger emphasized that the first forum highlighted that prosperous communities equate to a prosperous Michigan.  He suggested that maybe it’s time to change the score card for politicians and solicited comments on what should be on that score card.  Peterson responded that community leaders need to be seen as part of the solution and need to partner and assist those who want to move forward.

Forum participants uniformly agreed that it’s impossible to envision a healthy Michigan without a healthy Detroit and Grand Rapids.   



If you have any questions, please contact: 
Colleen Layton, or Arnold Weinfeld, .




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