By Carol Cain
Lansing Mayor Virg Benero was in a tizzy as he talked of the quiet crisis simmering in cities, municipalities and school districts across Michigan.
Bothering him was that many elected leaders are more interested in keeping things status quo than in trying to run their cities more efficiently and saving taxpayers’ money.
“Too many leaders – Democrats and Republicans – see themselves as local chiefs of an empire,” Bernero, a Democrat who runs the state’s sixth largest city, said on “Michigan Matters.” Watch this full episode.
“They are like war lords and use whatever tools necessary to protect their police departments, their fire departments, their road crews,” Bernero added.
He appeared with Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and talked about the opportunities and challenges in front of them.
“What’s needed is a concerted community push with business leading the charge to encourage elected officials to offer more bang for tax payer bucks,” Bernero said. “Businesses have gone through this process often. So too should municipalities.” He maintained the savings would amount to, “an economic stimulus program all its own.”
Bernero’s been frustrated with recent efforts to try to share and consolidate services with East Lansing and Ingham County. But he pointed to Westland Mayor Bill Wild, who has been having success sharing services with the city of Wayne.
The Westland-Wayne relationship serves as a sort of poster child for Gov. Rick Snyder’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP) which he announced last year to replace revenue sharing as it dangles carrots to communities to work together.
“Cities that embrace consolidations are going to be the cities that thrive in the future and continue to deliver quality services,” Wild said, adding they have worked out sharing arrangements in the fire department and parks and recreation.
Wild added one of the reasons they have had success is including unions in the conversations early on.
And they are looking at other things too, Wild added of his city and Wayne. In Grand Rapids, executives have been leading the charge to encourage a consolidation between the city and Kent County.
Local government officials have embraced the idea and exploring options. Other communities ought to be doing the same, Bernero added.
Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of “Michigan Matters” which airs 11:30 a.m. Sunday on CBS 62. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.