michigan

Link dump on municipal consolidations underway in Michigan

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Several communities around the state are having conversations about mergers between municipalities, ranging from Onekama Village and Township (total population < 1,000) to Grand Rapids & Kent County, which, as a single municipality of 606,000 people, would be the 24th largest city in the United States, right between Seattle and Washington, DC. No time to process right now, but some assorted links...

One Kent:

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/03/one_kents_new_city-county_gove.html

Michigan's popular Proposal 4s

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One of my most google-popular posts (ever) seems to be my comments opposing Michigan's Proposal 4 in 2006 - 5,600 visits so far, and about 200 search hits last month. (I'm google's second hit on some searches, right after the State of Michigan.) Are people really that hungry for a two-year old post on meaningless feel-good eminent domain "reform"? Or are there other Prop 4s they're looking for?

It looks like Michigan has only had 2 statewide Proposal 4s:

  • 2006 - Proposal 4 - A proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit government from taking private property by eminent domain for certain private purposes - approved 2,914,214 / 724,573

  • 2002 - Proposal 4 - A proposal to amend the state constitution to reallocate the "tobacco settlement revenue"
    received by the state from cigarette manufacturers. - failed 1,018,644 / 2,011,105

Earlier than about 2000, Michigan Proposals had letters, not numbers. So - why all the attention? I have a hard time believing that 200 people a month care that much about eminent domain reform that had almost no effect. Maybe the 2002 item is the popular one, dedicating tobacco settlement money to health care? (With the Big 3 doing what they're doing right now, I could understand an interest in ideas for health care.)

Alternately, maybe people are looking for local proposals, and just not specifying where? Seems like inefficient searching behavior.

A quick trip to the yoop.

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This weekend, we took a quick jaunt to the UP; the motivating factor was that the newly-Dr. Cohn is about to leave town for a post-doc, and had never been across the bridge in his 6 years in Michigan. (We then found out that Miss Margaret was also a blushing virgin of a troll, despite a Michigan childhood, and made her come along too.)

Some scattered thoughts on the trip:

Detroit, Itacare', and Kilimanjaro

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You know those sections of the New York Times that come after the news section and aren't the crossword? Escapes, Home & Garden, Travel, Fashion, and so forth? Well, I've found something in one of them that I can actually afford. From their list of The 53 places to go in 2008:

1. Laos
2. Lisbon
3. Tunisia
4. Mauritius
. . .
40. Detroit

Yes, Detroit.

Not that the description is 100% positive, and a little focused on the casinos. (Come on, the Tigers?)

Who's laughing now, Thirstbelt?!

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After all the abuse that Michigan has taken at the hands of the sunbelt, I just have to indulge in a moment of regional schadenfreude. Here in Michigan, we've been enjoying blue skies and 70-odd degree days, and my tomato plants are still blooming. So, hey, California, how you doin'?

Amtrak officially as cheap as gas

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In two weeks, I'm headed to Chicago for the National Brownfield Association's "Big Deal" conference (my department got a "free registration" scholarship to come show off one of our sites to developers). So I'm looking at travel options.

* Amtrak, Ann Arbor -> Chicago, AAA member discount, midweek round-trip = $48.60.
* Google maps, Ann Arbor -> Chicago = 241 miles, x2, at 30mpg, at $3 gallon = $48.20. (That would be driving our Sunfire, rather than the City's Crown Vic, which probably gets worse gas mileage.)
* The Federal mileage compensation rate is what these days, about $0.38/mile? That'd be $183.16, or 3.75 Amtrak tickets.

Metro A2 transit inching closer!

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In one of the previous iterations of this blog - which Google can't seem to find - I laid out a 3 item wishlist for Ann Arbor area transit.

1. Arrange for free rides on all AATA routes for UMich students.
2. Transit service from some point in A2 to Metro Airport (my target price point: $10 one-way.)
3. Tragically, I can't remember. Sigh. But I think it was a regional express service linking A2, Ypsi, and Detroit?

At any rate, #1 was implemented about 4 years back (showing how long I've been at this). And now, #2 was announced the day before I left for Montana! For, yep, $10 one-way. Check the Michigan Flyer website for details, and ArborUpdate for discussion.

"Middle class" is now the wealthiest 7%, says DetNews

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The DetNews today rails against suggestions for a graduated State income tax, saying,

Under one scenario, that highest bracket would kick in once household income hits $150,000. . .Democrats will try to sell this to voters by convincing them it hurts the evil rich and not good, wholesome working families. But look at the chart -- you don't have to make all that much money before your taxes go up substantially. Like every other tax hike, this one will rob the middle class, because that's where most of the money is.

Robbing the middle class at $150,000 and up, eh? Let's check some facts. (This is where it's especially nice that the Census Bureau's website is called "American Factfinder".)

Dry.

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It's been dry. Dry dry dry. (I type this while it is raining, but still - this may be the first good, prolonged, soaking rain, rather than flash downpour, we've had in months. Here's hoping.)

The Ann Arbor News says that area farmers are calling this the driest summer in living memory - ouch. "In southeast Michigan - where sweet and feed corn, soybeans, wheat and hay are common field crops - precipitation totals for June and July aren't much different than normal. But because the rain has come in short, heavy bursts followed by long, dry periods, it's done little good for growers anxiously checking their plants and weather reports."

Freep considers Michigan mergers

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I've long counted "too many local governments" among Michigan's issues - balkanization not only prevents us from reacting effectively and efficiently to new challenges, but also leads to needless competition and duplication of effort. Witness, for example, Ypsilanti Township's new master plan, which discusses the idea of creating a "town center", as if it hasn't had such a thing for 150 years now, a mere two miles north of where the plan proposes one. (This is hardly a unique case - it seems every township in Michigan is looking to misapply the memes of smart growth, new urbanism, and the "creative class" in a cargo cult effort to build artificial "town centers" from whole cloth. These efforts typically both fail to build the kind of truly attractive downtowns of an organically grown community - compare Cherry Hill Village to Chelsea - while also encroaching further on the "rural feel" that township residents often say they value. While is would be more to their interest to combine efforts with adjoining cities, to ensure that they can offer both a real, living center as well as preserving the open space and agricultural areas of the outer edges of the Twps, the artificial blind spots of jurisdiction forbid this.)

Today's Freep dedicates an impressive amount of space to the issue, focusing on the Royal Oak/Ferndale cluster of communities - 10 local governments within the a survey township's 36 square mile confines. Worth a read, now that I've primed you with my opinions on the issue.

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