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Posted on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:51 a.m.

If Michigan lives or dies by Detroit, it's time to take a hard look at Rick Snyder's revenue-sharing plan

By Rick Haglund

Whenever I write about Detroit, I prepare myself for the inevitable onslaught of negative reader comments:

The city is a sinkhole for tax dollars. It’s irrelevant to those living in the rest of the state. It’s corrupt. Let the city disappear into the Detroit River.

But it turns out those views, most of them expressed anonymously, may not accurately reflect how most of Michigan’s citizens view the state’s largest city.

In a recent statewide poll by EPIC-MRA of Lansing, 72 percent said a financially healthy Detroit is either important or essential to the state’s vitality.

And this is largely a bipartisan view. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats said Detroit is important or essential to Michigan’s economic success.

EPIC-MRA President Bernie Porn, who conducted the poll at the end of February for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV, said the survey reflects what he believes is a growing appreciation of the city’s importance.

“I think (the negative view of Detroit) has changed a lot over the years,” Porn told me. “It’s not the same as when Coleman Young or Kwame Kilpatrick were running the city.”

That’s at least in part due to the election of Mayor Dave Bing, a no-nonsense businessman who is working to restore the city’s financial and moral footings after years of Kilpatrick using Detroit’s treasury as his personal ATM.

Voters also elected Gov. Rick Snyder, who made clear during his campaign that he believes Detroit and other large cities in the state must succeed if Michigan is to prosper.

“For Michigan to be a world leader again, the state’s central cities need to be revitalized into vibrant places where families want to visit, work, and live,” Snyder said on his campaign website.

In addition, many of the young people Michigan needs to retain want to live in the kind of bustling cities they can’t find at home, so they’re moving to places such as Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

“Try to find a state that’s performing well and is not being led by a big metro that’s centered by a big city,” said Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League.

But Snyder’s proposed budget betrays his advocacy for strong cities. At a time when many cities are struggling to provide basic services, the governor wants to trim $100 million in revenue sharing mandated by state statute.

The remaining $200 million in statutory revenue sharing would go into an incentive pool that cities would receive based on sharing services and reducing employee benefit costs.

The EPIC-MRA poll found that 59 percent of voters favor Snyder’s revenue-sharing plan.

But Bing has said the cut has “potentially devastating consequences for Detroit.” And Gilmartin said it’s unrealistic for cities, which have lost $4.2 billion in statutory revenue sharing over the past decade, to take more cuts.

“It’s like telling cancer patients it would be nice for them to start jogging,” Gilmartin said. “That doesn’t work.”

Tough financial decisions have to be made in the state budget. But we’ve all seen the terrible results as Detroit and other cities fell into poverty.

Pushing them deeper into the hole will make Michigan a less attractive place for young people and business investment.

E-mail Rick Haglund at


Macabre Sunset

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 9:30 p.m.

Yeah, count me in with the crowd who would like to pay Canada to take Detroit for us. Maybe they can absorb all the corruption and crime. Nowhere in the history of the entire world has a city declined as Detroit did. Michigan has enormous resources, and the reason our economy is in the bottom five is solely because we keep pouring money into that sink hole.

David Briegel

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 3:05 p.m., really, how does it violate your policies to discuss the mostly white occupation army that commutes into the city on a daily basis and takes the money to the suburbs?

John B.

Fri, Mar 11, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

@Ms. Nation (who has one of the coolest screen names ever): I think it's (mostly) just random deletions, from what I've seen. (not that they ever delete any of mine, of course...). Even ERMG's posts get zapped every so often.

E. Manuel Goldstein

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

Contrary to the staffer, my comments get deleted.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

Really? "White Occupation Army" Are you joking? I hope you are. If you are not, that explains the state of Detroit.

Rich Rezler

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

@David: I went back and reviewed the only comment that was blocked on this thread, and its content had nothing to do with "the mostly white occupation army that commutes into the city on a daily basis." Did you believe one of your comments was blocked? If so, I don't see anything in the moderation queue. Sorry. @Bertha: I'm sorry you feel that way, but I can assure you it's not true.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

Beats me, David. Seems if they don't agree with you, they delete your comment (my experience).


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Some articles to chew on. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

If Michigan lives or dies by Detroit, it's time to call the state undertaker. Fortunately, that idea is just baloney propagated by Detroiters who want more handouts and by sentimental urbanists. More accurately: Detroit lives or dies by Michigan, because if Michigan isn't strong enough to keep propping up Detroit, it is Detroit that dies.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Well this article and the related list of schools by county with rainy day funds the state would like to get a hold of....should generate some interest!!!!!


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

Good paying jobs usually are given to literate people. I feel bad for Detroit, but I can't see any realistic way to fix it. The schools are so bad that no kid has a chance. The teachers are paid in the 96th percentile in Michigan so it is not a money issue. I have thought about numerous solutions to the problem, but they all boil down to getting people to move to Detroit to fix the tax base. BUT what sane person would martyr his family in Detroit? The only solution I can see is to create an immigrant friendly city or gay friendly city and encourage the immigration of 100's of thousands of people from Mexico, South East Asia, Nigeria etc. to energize the city.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:50 p.m.

Been to Detroit lately? I work here every day. If this state lives or dies by Detroit, then we are dead. Detroit is a black hole of money, corruption and the entitlement mentality. Combine that with a violent youth population and ignorant leadership makes it the laughing stock of the country. If this state lives or dies by Detroit, I'll cut my losses and go elsewhere.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

I'm getting tired of all the talk. &quot;Detroit has a), b) and c), wrong. This guy needs to do this. We should do this. It's just like city x,y and z.&quot; Detroit is in a unique situation and not going to recover in any traditional sense, so most ideas are probably wrong anyway. Go downtown, volunteer, become mentor, try a new restaurant or bar, and heck, if you're ambitious, start/fund a new business and create your own jobs! But for the sake of the city, if you don't like it, then get out and shut up, and if you want to see it turn around, DO something.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

Funny. Have you? We did give it a shot back in the early 90s, but ended up having to go with Chicago because it had incentives, e.g. a much lower property tax rate and tough on crime stance. What am I talking about? Real estate, winning! Ask someone in Corktown what they pay in property taxes or the fact that the Stadium is gone? Look at the housing stock in and around the neighborhoods and compare it to what was available in Chicago's Wicker Park, East Village, and Pilsen neighborhoods? Trust me Detroit would have been a far better place for us to start our business, but we chose Chicago because it still works. Detroit, however, is run by a bunch of greedy people and that is why it will NEVER change.

David Briegel

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

Mayor Dave Bing is a fine man. If the White majority that fled and allowed the city to deteriorate to it's current level can't support a fine man like Bing in his efforts, further shame will deservedly befall our once proud state. &quot;Greed, corruption, incompetence, and stupidity&quot;, Indeed!


Sat, Mar 12, 2011 : 3:26 a.m.

David - I tried in the mid-1980s to buy and house in Detroit and move into the city. I was told repeatedly that &quot;My Kind&quot; were not welcome by city employees. I did the flee, I was refused entry. What have you done to help Detroit?

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 3:16 p.m.

Hmm, you are blaming White Flight on Detroit's many issues? Bing may or may not be the problem, but Kwane and previous administrations sure are to blame.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

Detroit needs to broken up into smaller towns/cities and cleaned out of vacant housing. I know of one 2000 acre area where developers counted 688 houses that needed demolition. Each of these towns/cities would have a its own government where it could start over. Of course none of this would be practical unless there are enough middle class jobs to support these areas.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Michigan no longer lives or dies by Detroit, but by the quality of leadership in Lansing. Detroit's collapse back in the 60s through the 80s already ushered in a new era of investments elsewhere in the state such as in Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and elsewhere. The real danger with Detroit is the crumbling infrastructure and horrific schools which will never be up to par for training tomorrow leaders or workers if we don't act now. Without a viable population that can handel tomorrow's jobs, Detroit is truly a goner. As it sits now, Detroit is a beautiful ruin of a city. Visitors to our state are impressed by the ruins and amazed at how an entire city can be destroyed by greed, corruption, incompetence, and stupidity. EPIC-MRA President Bernie Porn? That is an unfortunate name.

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

Michigan does not live or die by Detroit. Time to put this banal platitude to bed and move on.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:07 p.m.

It's a bit of spin to say that 72% said &quot;important or essential&quot;. It's question 26 on the survey that talks about whether the City of Detroit is essential or important to the economic health of the rest of the state. 32% said &quot;essential&quot;, but 40% said important but *not* essential. So you could also say that 66% said success in Detroit is *not* essential to the health of the state economy. In response to Mr. Gilmartin's challenge, Montana and North and South Dakota did extremely well in this recent recession, and don't really have large cities or metro areas. Actually, it was the large cities and metro areas that had some of the worst excesses of the housing bubble. The large cities, and their suburbs and exurbs had most of the worst price crashes. Cash is right. Time to update the state constitution to have a graduated income tax. I'd pay more too. Remember that you only pay the higher rate on the higher income. So if a new 6% rate was added on incomes over $50,000, most people wouldn't pay any more taxes, and only the amount *over* $50k would be taxed at 6%. But I don't think that would make any difference in Detroit. Mr. Gilmartin has the right analogy for Detroit, but unfortunately, not all cancers are curable. The best bet for Detroit is probably managed decline.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

Oops, typo. It's question 27. The survey is online at: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

I really have not yet heard a plan that sounds workable for turning Detroit around. St. Louis, Mo and Providence, RI are examples of cities that had serious problems but have turned around. But both started that process decades ago so the problems were never as big as Detroit's. It would be useful in the discussion to ask what Detroit needs. Detroit needs a prosperous middle class living in the city. For that it would need some industry to support them. And it would need appropriate public safety services to allow them to function. Only this last could be solved by government intervention.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

I spend plenty of time in Detroit and the problems consist of 1. Highly funded $$ horribly performing schools 2. Corruption at every level 3. Most children are born out of wed lock to young women without resources 4. Incredibly high property taxes 5. City income tax 6. Incredibly low literacy rate Nobody is going to move there and with poor services, crime and high taxes. The only hope I see is an influx of immigrants and or possibly creating an area for a gay enclave.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Tim I believe that the parents want choice, the problem is the teacher's union in Detroit which has a vested interest in the status quo. Break it up, allow poor mothers to put their children in schools where they at least have a chance. Just because you are poor does not mean your children should not have a right to a quality education.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

Some of the Detroit charter schools do very well because responsible parents separate their kids from the masses and control the environment in which their kids grow up. That's why I think the city should be broken up into smaller towns/cities, add in your idea about emigrants and these cities could create their own cultural standards (hopefully a better one than what exist now).


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 2:33 p.m.

Gay enclaves tend to improve urban areas and gays do not use many services (e.g. schools are not a bigg issue). Many large cities have had very good luck with gay enclaves.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

&quot;possibly creating an area for a gay enclave.&quot; HUH????

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

3. Most children are born out of wed lock to young women without resources That is a cultural value and plays no part in how well a city performs.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:23 p.m.

The biggest issue is lack of good paying jobs. Many of the problems you list stem from poverty.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

7. High insurance rates. Auto theft, burglary and most of all huge civil suits against businesses have made insurance alone almost a prohibitive expense.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Good article, Mr Haglund. The State of Michigan's wealthiest people live in Southeast Michigan, so we are aware of the great disparity. Many have benefited from a flat income tax that takes the same percentage from Alan Mullaly that it takes from a Walmart greeter. It's time for a graduated income tax for Michigan, one of the few states with a flat tax. Would it raise my tax? Probably so. But it is more fair than taking from the working poor.


Sat, Mar 12, 2011 : 3:25 a.m.

When you have your petition to change the constitution together Cash, let us know and I will sign it. Until then, I just see your complaint as a broken record. How about a different song?


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

Individual 1: $30,000 x 4.35% = $1305 Individual 2: $10,000,000 x 4.35% = $435,000 Yes, clearly we need a graduated tax. We also need to make sure the elderly pay zero state income tax because AA Taubman is 86 and its unfair to keep taxing him.

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 3:46 p.m.

Just curious, why RFK ? Not many seem to remember him or talk much about him any more.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 12:40 p.m.

Cash, I'm happy to see that I'm not the only one who realizes that positive action is needed to turn around this state and country, even though it will cost us a bit of moola.