One of the League’s eight critical assets to building vibrant communities is education.  In Michigan, the link between communities and school districts can be clouded as they are considered separate entities, where school districts are run by their own boards.  And the boundaries mostly never match.  There are some cities in Michigan that encompass up to half a dozen school districts!

This said, we’ve always maintained that it is important for local officials to realize the importance of the link between building a better community by building better relationships with the local K-12 school system and if available, a community college or four year school that might be within the city boundaries.  Certainly, all of these entities need a vibrant, healthy place for their teachers and professors to choose to live and parents to settle in to send their kids to school.  And at the end of the day, both local and school officials need to be working together to make that happen.

One of the bigger issues that certainly brings this to the forefront is that of after-school programs.  Time and again studies have shown that the after-school time period of 3-6 pm is the most worrisome and is that time of the day when school age children can find themselves in trouble on their own or in harm’s way.  There seems to be real opportunity in this area for local community and school district to partner.

And, its happening.  In Michigan, cities like Grand Rapids and Farmington Hills are well known for their work in this area.  The Michigan After School Partnership collaboration also is very active in promoting such partnerships.  The League has worked with both MASP and the National League of Cities on this matter as well.

Now, a new study by FHI 360 and The Wallace FoundationIs Citywide Afterschool Coordination Going Nationwide? , uncovers what mayoral support for coordination of after-school programs has meant in places around the country.

If you’re interested in learning more, The National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families, in partnership with The Wallace Foundation  is holding a webinar on Tuesday, November 19th from 2-3 pm  EDT to discuss the report findings.  Speakers will include not only report authors but also representatives from community after-school programs across the country.

To register for the webinar visit:

It’s been a while since I last wrote and to be quite honest there has been a lot I’ve seen and done since then.  For instance, I was flattered to be a part of an international group of thought leaders that came to Detroit to discuss the principles and concepts of “Lean Urbanism”. This is an emerging topic of discussion and of great importance to local government officials and staff as we continue to find strategies to address the new normal of lowered capacity and system change.  Look for more on this subject soon.

Cleveland BRTMore recently I had the opportunity to attend the Inner City Economic Summit in Cleveland.  If you haven’t been to Cleveland recently, go.  The downtown area is lively and walkable with a BRT and trolley system for those days when mother nature decides to turn Lake Erie into her playground.  The theme of this conference was “Transforming Urban Ecologies”.  While I’ll write more about this in a later blog, the opening session featured 6 finalists from around the country as part of a “Urban Innovation Challenge”.  Three of the six were Detroit based projects, proving once again that as Detroit reinvents itself, it is truly a center of innovation.

But there will be time to explore these “30,000 foot” topics, thoughts and ideas that were central to both of the above meetings. What I want to write about today is something I saw this week on You Tube.  It is a TED presentation given by Jeannette Sadik-Kahn, Transportation Director for New York City.

Now if you’re not familiar with Ms. Kahn, then this video is a perfect introduction.  Let me begin by saying two things… first, if I was king of the world, this woman would be my Transportation Director!  I first ran across her at a CEO’s for Cities conference in New York several years ago and was in awe of her passion, intellect and get it done demeanor. The things she and her team have been able to do have not just reinvented areas such as Times Square, but touched neighborhoods and business districts across the city.  The second thing is that what she has done and is doing is being accomplished by not paying much attention to her own department bureaucracy or that of any other city department.  Some of the projects are simple and some more complex but she is turning the city into a more walkable, bikeable and pedestrian friendly place.

Watch the video, and before you dismiss it as only applicable to larger cities, clear your mind and I have no doubt you’ll come away with an idea or two for your community.

Now, back to my big think.