Blog: Dan Gilmartin

Dan Gilmartin is our guest blogger this week. He is the youngest executive director in the 108 year history of the Michigan Municipal League. Dan previously served as the League's deputy director and as an advocate in Lansing and in Washington, where he concentrated on transportation, land use and urban redevelopment.

Check back here each week day to read Dan's thoughts on regionalism and how we can build the kind of community that attracts knowledge-based workers.

Post No. 2

If I told you that there were 1,600 fewer cops on the streets in Michigan today than on 9/11 would you be surprised?  What about 2,400 less fire fighters?  These statistics fly in the face of what people see on TV and read on the web about the nation’s focus on homeland security.  But the fact of the matter in Michigan is that public safety is largely a function of local government and the state has been disinvesting in communities for well over a decade. Cities, in particular, are showing real signs of distress.  

I can tell you that from my talks with local officials that cutting police and fire is the last thing that they consider when trying to balance their budgets. So the massive layoffs are occurring only after roads aren’t being resurfaced, libraries are closing and recreation programs are being scaled back. And as I write this Blog the State Legislature is considering additional cuts to communities to solve their own self created state budget mess.

So if knowledge-based workers are looking for vibrant communities, does it make sense for the state to continue to disinvest in the cities that appeal to them? If we are really serious about turning our economic ship around, we must reverse the trend of $2 billion in cuts to community funding, repeated legislative attacks on local revenue streams, and a lack of consensus on transportation strategies that has resulted in millions of federal dollars being left on the table in D.C. At a time when our future is tied to our ability to attract knowledge-based workers and businesses, it’s reckless to continue to cut the knees out from those who are charged with providing the environment that they seek. 

It’s not just Detroit that is hurting, either.  Communities like Livonia and Dearborn, long envied for their large tax base and efficient service delivery, have joined the growing list of metro Detroit communities who are cutting critical services.  Their financial troubles have less to do with the economy than they do with the outdated system that they are required to work under.      

Vibrant communities attract talented people. Talented people attract knowledge-based businesses. Together they make for a strong economy and a higher quality of life for everyone, but we can’t consistently produce these types of places if the state continues to direct resources elsewhere.

For more information on the funding crisis, check out our award-winning video on YouTube.