MML#2 – How Changes in DC Impact Local Governments

MML#2 – How Changes in DC Impact Local Governments

(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 24, 2017)

Lansing, MI – Local elected officials of all political persuasions need to be in tune with decisions made at the state and national level.  That’s why the Michigan Municipal League included a panel discussion called “The Changing Landscape in Washington and How it will Affect Michigan Communities” in their Capital Conference on March 21.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett took the stage along with Fenton Mayor Pro-Tem Patricia Lockwood and Wesstland Mayor William Wild to talk about various issues they have their eyes on.

In addition to their roles as elected officials, each is part of larger organizations that delve deeply into municipal concerns. Barnett is a US Conference of Mayors Board of Trustees Member.  Lockwood serves on the Board of National League of Cities. And Wild is Michigan Ambassador and Transportation and Communications Committee Member of the US Conference of Mayors.

The US Conference of Mayors brings together 1200 Mayors of cities with 30,000 people or more from all across the country.  “We rely on each other.  Unless the cities and villages across the country are on top of these issues, there is a disconnect.  We need to be aware of issues, and speak on them,” Lockwood said.

Sanctuary Cities

When asked about sanctuary cities, Wild said “As Mayors we know the value of diversity and the value of immigrants…It flies in the face of America for the President to come in and make sweeping changes…This is important for all of our communities and hopefully at the end of the day we can come together.”

Barnett said that in Rochester Hills, where they use Oakland County Sheriff’s Department for policing services, “every resident of my city is treated the same. Oakland County doesn’t do any additional enforcement.  They help ICE but they don’t do anything more.”

He added that as Mayors the topic of sanctuary cities can be “challenging” because “there isn’t a true definition of what that means.”

Lockwood said “We believe the rules are broken at this time. We need to have a dialogue about what this means for cities.”

CDBGs (Community Development Block Grants)

Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) are allocated through the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help fund programs that help low income residents as well as to create development that helps communities, such as funding senior centers, neighborhood parks, housing development, home repair assistance programs and more.  President Donald Trump has called for an end to CDBGs.

“I could walk him to our Senior Center, to HAVEN, and show him the hard work cities do.  You’ll be hard pressed to find someone that uses grants better than cities,” said Barnett.

“This is the disconnect they have in Washington,” Wild said.  “This is a program that had bipartisan support.”

Important Issues

The panelists were asked, if they had the chance, what would they tell President Trump should be a priority?

Lockwood said that maintaining the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds should be a priority.  “Tax exempt municipal bonds are not as sexy, but it is the #1 issue for us here in Michigan,” she said.

Bonds are used for infrastructure projects.  And infrastructure was Wild’s choice for a priority.  “What better way to build bipartisan support than something we all care about – start with infrastructure,” Wild said.

“If you can’t bond for those [projects] you can’t develop and have what you need,” Lockwood added.

Barnett said that making sure funds and incentives go directly to cities is important.  “Last time we did an incentive the money did not go straight to cities.  We do things on budget and on time.  So give the money to the cities,” he said.

Surviving the Chaos

Panelists were asked how America could survive the chaos in Washington.

“Where I find hope is in organizations like this,” said Barnett.  “Bipartisan work is how we are going to succeed. We have to get things done. We can’t rant and rave on C-Span until 4 am on platitudes.  We come together and get stuff done.”

The Michigan Municipal League 2017 Capital Conference took place March 21-22 in Lansing.  Oakland County Times will be featuring stories from the conference over the next few weeks.  If you’d like to sign up for daily headlines from Oakland County Times go to https://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=Oakland_County_115_News.

For articles from previous MML Conferences go to http://oaklandcounty115.com/?s=mml

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