By Carol Cain
With shrinking population, falling revenues and growing fiscal issues, is it time for the city of Detroit and Wayne County to consider merging?
That question was among several debated during the Michigan Chronicle’s recent “Pancakes and Politics” forum that revolved around urban cities throughout the state .
The panel included: Harvey Hollins III, director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitian Initiatives; George Jackson, president & CEO, Detroit Economic Growth Corp; Tim Terrentine, vice president , Southwest Michigan First in Kalamazoo; and Dr. H. James Williams, Dean, Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids.
CBS62 was among the sponsors of the event. I moderated the conversation.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who was in the audience, asked how “relevant” cities were in the 21st century and wondered if a different form of governance made more sense.
Tom Wakins, CEO of TDW & Associates and former state superintendent of schools, who has talked about consolidation of schools and municipalities for years, followed up and asked specifically about Detroit and Wayne County.
“We have too much government, mismanagement, inside dealing and corruption and have run out of money to continue to prop it up,” Watkins said. “Isn’t it about time we merge/consolidate Detroit and Wayne County?”
“I don’t think it will happen anytime soon,” Hollins said.
Hollins said collaboration would be a more likely way to bridge that gap.
When asked what it was going to take for Southeast Michigan to become a truly collaborative environment, Terrentine said: “You have to have somebody who’s willing not to take the credit.”
“The Kalamazoo region is nearing the end of a yearlong process of developing a tri-county building authority and is working on a collaborative police dispatch system,” Terrentine said.
On other questions, the panelists agreed cities offer advantages like cultural institutions that young creative types crave, and cool urban environments.
Jackson said cities are benefitting from creative financing to get deals done and a desire for many Gen Y-ers to move into urban cities.
“People outside of Detroit often don’t know what’s happening there,” Jackson said.
Watch the “Pancakes and Politics” conversation on urban cities as a special “Michigan Matters” airing 11:30 am Sunday on CBS62.
(Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of CBS62 “Michigan Matters.” She also writes a column on business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-355-7126)