local government

Economy
4:46 pm
Thu July 28, 2011

Cities, townships, counties brace for rough couple years

Members of the Michigan Municipal League gather for a Q & A session with Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The next two or three years “are going to be rough” for local governments in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder told a group of city managers and county executives he’s sensitive to that.

The main cause of budget problems for local governments is a declining tax base. Home values are down and there are fewer businesses since the recession. Townships, cities, and counties get most of their money from property taxes. 

Governor Snyder says he knows the tough times are not over for municipalities.

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Politics
3:43 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Communities ban texting, and e-mails during council meetings

Local governments across the country are struggling with how to handle texting and e-mailing during public meetings. Some communities in Michigan have banned the practice.
Karry Vaughan Flickr

With the number of digital devices like smart phones and tablets exploding, communicating with one another electronically is becoming a common part of our society.

And as many high school teachers know, thumbing on a keyboard can even go undetected if you're good.

Now, some communities are banning the practice of texting and e-mailing during public meetings.

The Detroit News has a piece on the restrictions some local governments have put in place. The piece looks at the restrictions in Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, and Sterling Heights.

From the Detroit News:

Supporters say the issue is about transparency and integrity, not to mention common courtesy. They argue email or even text conversations could violate the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires decisions and most deliberations to be public.

"It's about maintaining the integrity of this council and futurecouncils," said Maria Schmidt, a city councilwoman in Sterling Heights, which amended its council governing rules earlier this year to ban electronic communication during meetings.

But critics of the bans say technology helps these officials do their jobsmore effectively and efficiently. They call the bans "short-sighted."

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Local Government
5:36 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Transforming city government in Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Today elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund.

The plan includes money for a new ‘transformation fund’ – which can only be used for one-time investments in long-term structural changes.

Grand Rapids took a couple measure last year to keep their budget out the red…they laid off around 175 employees and voters approved a city income tax hike.

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Economy
4:25 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Gun Lake Casino’s first payout to state, local governments top expectations

Wayland Township Supervisor Roger VanVolkinburg accepts a check Thursday from Gun Lake Casino.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The state and several local governments are getting more than $2.5 million from Gun Lake Casino. It’s the first revenue-sharing payment since the casino opened in February.

More than $500,000 goes to one city, six townships, Allegan County and a public school district near the casino about 30 minutes south of Grand Rapids.

Wayland Township Supervisor Roger VanVolkinburg is not the only one who underestimated how big the first check would be.  

“Well my estimate was $200,000 years ago so it’s was a little off. (laughs) I’m sorry.”

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Politics
11:37 am
Mon March 21, 2011

Governor Snyder rolls out plan to reform local government

Governor Rick Snyder has outlined a plan to withhold some state aid to local governments unless they make plans to consolidate services and make their finances more open. The governor says he wants to create new incentives for communities to save money and become more efficient.

He would revamp how the state shares tax revenues with cities and townships to reward those that come up with cost-savings. 

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State of the city
3:34 pm
Sat February 5, 2011

Heartwell: Grand Rapids ‘destination city’

Grand Rapids’ Mayor George Heartwell painted his city as a destination for medical researchers, entrepreneurs, artists and young people in his State of the City address Saturday.

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technology
7:18 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Grand Rapids Police accepting reports for some crimes online

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People can report vandalism, petty theft, and other crimes that are not emergencies or incidents where the victim doesn’t know who did it to the Grand Rapids Police online.

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balancing budgets
1:40 pm
Tue January 4, 2011

Kalamazoo balances city budget with ease, for now…

Kalamazoo City Commission discusses the city's finances Monday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Kalamazoo has a new balanced budget in place…with no layoffs, tax increases or cuts to city services. City commissioners unanimously approved the 2011 budget plan Monday night.

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Health Care
4:44 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Holland to file lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield

Holland is the latest city in Michigan planning to file a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield over variable fees. The fee is a 13.5% administrative access fee Blue Cross charged the city on any insurance claims filed by employees.  The city claims the insurer didn’t tell them about the fees for 17 years.

Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says,

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Politics
6:20 pm
Tue November 23, 2010

Ottawa County consolidates two elected offices

Tight budgets are forcing local governments across the state to do more with less. That's easier said than done - even in traditionally fiscally conservative areas. Straight ticket republican voters in Ottawa County outnumbered their democratic counterparts 4 to 1 in the last election. Many self-described-fiscal-conservatives spoke out against the plan. They don't think the consolidation will save the county as much money as expected and worry services will suffer.


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