Welcome to the first installment of a brand new column from Midwest ELGL; Pure Midwest. Every week I’ll be bringing you the top news stories & job openings from the Midwest as well as a look at important issues in local government across the country. In addition to the high-quality local government coverage you have come to expect from ELGL, I’ll take a look at music, sports, literature and culture of the Midwest. Some content may veer away from local government from time to time; try to bear with me.
Not every state in the nation legalized Marijuana in November but there were some interesting Midwestern laws that came into effect January 1st. On the health care front, the first of the Affordable Care Act policies became active January 1st, although those without plans will not be penalized. Indiana made it illegal for minors to use tanning salons; I have a startlingly tan teenage cousin in Gary who is going to be very disappointed. Illinois has taken the lead on drone policy, making illegal for law enforcement to use drones except for counter-terrorism or to prevent a convict from escaping.
Muncie, IN looks to take advantage of TIF districts
Officials in Muncie, Indiana are hoping Tax Increment Financing (TIF) will help encourage development and improve infrastructure in certain areas of the City. TIF financing captures tax growth within the district and earmarks it for improvements within those boundaries. TIF districts are typically used for things like Downtown Development Authorities and redevelopment projects. Muncie considers the upside of TIF districts while other Midwestern states, like Michigan, look to “reform” TIF districts increase transparency and clarify how special assessments are appropriated.
Pensions, Pensions, Pensions…
Midwestern pensions are in the news again. This time in Illinois where retirees are upset over the reduction in cost of living increases; essentially, the State is looking to change the cost of living increases from 3% compounded annual increase to a 3% non-compounded annual increase using a formula based on years of service. In other pension news, a U.S. bankruptcy judge upheld the City of Detroit’s right to cut employee pensions. The move comes in the midst of an ongoing bankruptcy process.
In case you missed it, it snowed. Everywhere. And now it’s freezing cold. Like, record breaking cold out. It’s not just a storm; it’s a polar vortex, but you can call it Dion. Snow days are plentiful. Drives to work are terrible. We’re all suffering from a terrible case of Winter Madness. Temperatures were so low in Michigan salt, which is usually used to melt ice on the roads, was not enough. Things got so bad in Indianapolis the Mayor issued a ”Code Red”, making it illegal for anyone but prescribed personnel to drive on City streets.
As Midwesterners, winter snow storms are no more surprising than the Detroit Lions missing the play-offs but this storm, with a wicked cold front following soon after, packed an extra punch. But with warmer weather (even rain) in the short-term forecast it looks like there is reason to be optimistic. On the plus side, all this terrible cold will likely put a dent in the emerald ash borer population.
Stay strong. Spring is coming. Be sure to thank your Public Service staff that has been working around the clock since Friday.
Out with the Old? Maybe not.
Cities around the country struggle to balance preserving historical sites with encouraging growth. In Wisconsin a developer, who owns 11% of the land in the Mansion Historic District, is proposing a project that will displace a historic house while demolishing a 1960’s era apartment building and a 120 year old house to make room for three new buildings, containing 60 units total. Opponents of the new development raise concerns about the new development’s compliance with the City’s Landmark Ordinance while proponents champion new development efforts in the area.
It’s Raining Jobs, Hallelujah
Village Manager: Village of Tinley Park
Community Development Director: Village of Sugar Grove
Assistant City Manager: City of New Buffalo
Communications Manager: City of Bloomington
Finance Director: City of Novi
City Manager: City of Vandalia
City Manager: City of Sault Ste Marie
- New England over Indianapolis
- Denver over San Diego
- Seattle over New Orleans
- San Francisco over Carolina
John on John
My life essentially divided into two parts: work and school. I’ll do my best to summarize each by going over a few projects I’m in the middle of and the last few papers I’ve done for class.
Work: Novi, MI. Management Analyst Graduate Intern
- The 2014 Budget Document – With our fiscal year ending in at the end of June it’s that time of the year again. We just completed our revenue projections and we’ll start our preliminary budget meetings over the next few weeks.
- Performance Measurement – The City of Novi joined ICMA’s Center for Performance Measurement (CPM) this past year. We are also participating in the Michigan Local Government Benchmark Consortium (MLGBC) for the first time this year. Our goal is to incorporate these two programs into our current internal performance measurement practices and with our National Citizen Survey and the first ever Business Survey to paint a better picture of how we operate and how we can improve.
- Per-acre Valuation – This is actually my Master’s project but I’m doing it through the City of Novi so I lumped it in here. After I read The End of the Suburbs, “The Missing Metric” and going on strongtowns.org I was inspired to look at how the suburban model is impacting Novi. The goal is to break down each residential zoning type to an average per-acre taxable value over the last 10 years. I’m using zoning types as a proxy for density measures. It should be wrapped up by March.
School: MPA student. Oakland University
- Bio Paper on Herbert A. Simon. A great organizational thinker. Interested in artificial intelligence, economics and behavioral science. His writing is incredibly dense but interesting if you time to spend with it.
- Economic Gardening in Historic Downtowns. I looked at economic gardening techniques used in downtowns across the country. Instead of participating the “race to the bottom” some cities and towns have instead started supporting their own local businesses as an economic development approach. I was inspired by my own hometown is Lapeer and I worked in their downtown for a while.
- Budgeting Systems in Local Governments. I wrote an RFP and specifications for a potential budgeting module for the City of Novi. The assignment was for my IT Systems class but I ended actually using it at the City. We didn’t end up accepting any of the bids.
Thanks for reading the first ever Midwest. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any comments, questions or suggestions for next week!