Last week the National League of Cities hosted their 2014 State League Staff Workshop in Portland, OR. Here, staff from state leagues around the country gathered to network, learn, and discuss emerging issues in the field.

Presenting on how leagues can support distressed communities with Rhode Island League Associate Director, Peder Schaefer

Presenting at the NLC Staff Workshop with Rhode Island League Associate Director, Peder Schaefer, on how municipal leagues can support distressed communities.

In a workshop co-led by Peder Schaefer of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, I had the opportunity to present MML’s work on supporting distressed communities. MML’s role promoting placemaking by highlighting case studies, enhancing crowdfunding, and developing a place-based policy platform are unique to leagues across the country. Workshop attendees were eager to hear about Detroit and the creative ways MML is supporting the state’s communities.

Portland, OR

Portland's Saturday Market on the riverfront

Portland’s Saturday Market on the riverfront

Hosting the NLC’s conference in Portland was a wonderful illustration of effective placemaking. The city has incredibly effective and low-cost public transportation, miles and miles of bike lanes, small and walkable city blocks, and neighborhoods full of life and character. Yes, the city’s slogan “Keep Portland Weird” was true to its name, but even the strangest people were kind, helpful, and excited to talk about their city.

Downtown Portland was full of activity with public plazas, food carts, multimodal transportation, and people doing things people do: talking, laughing, eating, soaking up the sun, shopping, and simply looking at other people.

Pedestrians are the priority in Portland's streets. Downtown intersections are marked with brick to notify drivers to slow down.

Pedestrians are the priority in Portland’s streets: Downtown intersections are marked with brick to notify drivers to slow down.

After the conference, I stayed an extra night in the Alberta District in north-east Portland. The people I stayed with had an extra bike for guests, so I was really able to get around like a Portlander! There were amazing local shops, a ton of places to eat, and parks full of activity.

I was floored at how friendly people were and how eager they were to help a tourist. People started real conversations while waiting in line, said hello on the street, and customer service staff took pride in their roles (and with a minimum wage of $9.10/hour and rising, there was plenty of reason to be genuine).

The city is scattered with food carts and there are block-long segments of permanent food vendors in cart-like structures.

The city is scattered with food carts and there are block-long segments of permanent food vendors in cart-like structures.

While wandering around the city, the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community report kept popping into my head. The study found that aesthetics, openness and social offerings are what people loved most about where they live. Portland looks great, people felt open to diversity, and there were countless opportunities to connect with others on the street, at an event, or standing line at the food truck: Portland makes a great case study.

Although we have aspects of Portland’s magic in some Michigan communities, many have a long way to go. Not every city should be exactly like Portland, but our role at MML is to help communities expand on their own unique assets and become the best cities they can be.

We know that thriving communities are key to Michigan’s long-term success and sustainability!  If we are going to compete globally in the 21st century, then we have to create communities that can attract and retain talent and offer the amenities that people of all ages are seeking.  As changing demographics have begun to reshape how we build places for the future, old ways of meeting these challenges have become outdated.  Oftentimes, bad policy gets in the way of creating great places.  The League has put forth a proactive policy agenda called Partnership for Place that proposes a commitment of action in partnership between the State and its municipalities.   Our goal is that these policies will facilitate Michigan’s economic growth and allow for the development of places to provide key services and amenities that contribute to a high quality of life.  Check out our new video that illustrates some of Michigan’s challenges and what we need to do to move forward!

 

Better Communities. Better Michigan. The Podcast!Partnership for Place

Thriving communities are a key to Michigan’s long-term success and sustainability. If we are going to compete globally in the 21st century, then it is critical to create communities that can attract and retain talent and enterprise.

We’ll discuss the League’s Partnership for Place agenda and the increased support for placemaking locally with League Executive Director and CEO Dan Gilmartin, University of Michigan’s Debra Horner and State Representative Gretchen Driskell.  The Partnership for Place agenda proposes a commitment of action between the State and its municipalities that will facilitate Michigan’s economic growth and allow for the development of places to provide key services and amenities that contribute to a high quality of life.  Also, a recent study released by the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy shows that more local governments than ever before are utilizing placemaking as an economic development tool in their communities. Finally, we’ll discuss what this means for advancing state policy changes here in Michigan.

Better Communities Better Michigan The Podcast!

The Michigan Municipal League is the one clear voice for Michigan communities, working in Lansing and throughout the state for the unique and vibrant places where people want to live. From state policy to cutting edge local initiatives, we’ll discuss issues that impact us all, and identify key strategies to promote highly adaptable, economically competitive communities that are ready to face the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

Better Communities. Better Michigan. The Podcast!Will the Legislature Support the Governor’s Proposed Revenue Sharing/EVIP Budget?

Governor Snyder recently proposed an additional 15% in funding for the statutory revenue sharing program, known currently as the Economic Vitality Incentive Program (EVIP). But with the additional funds comes yet another layer of requirements local leaders must adhere to in order to obtain the funds. How likely is it the legislature approves this plan? House General Government Subcommittee on Appropriations Chairman Earl Poleski (R-Jackson) and Senate General Government Subcommittee on Appropriations member Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Township) talk to us about their views on local government funding, short term and long term.

Better Communities Better Michigan The Podcast!

The Michigan Municipal League is the one clear voice for Michigan communities, working in Lansing and throughout the state for the unique and vibrant places where people want to live. From state policy to cutting edge local initiatives, we’ll discuss issues that impact us all, and identify key strategies to promote highly adaptable, economically competitive communities that are ready to face the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.