2021 MML Convention Aims to Spark a Community Revival Through Trust and Belonging

Posted on September 7, 2021 by Matt Bach

The Michigan Municipal League’s 2021 Convention is taking place in person later this month and this year’s focus is around the Community Wealth Building work the MML started last year.

The Convention, happening Sept. 22-24 in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize, centers on helping our local leaders spark a community revival by building trust and belonging. All of our planned general sessions, breakouts, and local tours are carefully crafted to foster Community Wealth Building and leave attendees feeling optimistic, empowered, courageous, and open-minded.

Registration is still open by clicking here, and attendees will learn how to turn an opportunity into a strong community wealth building partnership; explore creative approaches to meeting the need for affordable housing; learn how to create trust and belonging in your community, and much more.

Here are some of the session highlights that focus on the six pillars of Community Wealth Building – lifelong learning; public health, arts & culture; financial security; sustainability; and infrastructure:

Wednesday, Sept. 22, General Session: Creating a Virtuous Cycle with the City Business Collaborative

People are attracted to places that feel like community. Businesses want to be in communities that attract people. Residents, entrepreneurs, and businesses all desire good health, safety, security, longevity, and places that create wealth and assets that they can pass on to the next generation.

These characteristics are not achieved by extraction, scarcity, or zero-sum thinking. Instead, the City Business Collaborative seeks abundance created by a virtuous circle resulting in equitable growth and reinvestment for future prosperity for people and businesses.

In this general session on Wednesday, Sept. 22, hear from representatives of the City Business Collaborative on their ambitious agenda to build a more prosperous Michigan.

Thursday, Sept. 23, General Session: Strap In—Local Leaders Set for the Ride of a Lifetime

American Rescue Plan. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The American Families Plan. Taken together, federal dollars from these current and proposed laws amount to more than $6 trillion of investment in America’s physical and social infrastructure. Local governments large and small will be the gatekeepers for many of these resources and will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the quality of life for their residents. The decisions of today’s mayors, city managers, council members, and municipal staff will have the single greatest impact on the future of their community since the industrial revolution. Is your municipality prepared to make the most of this unique moment in U.S. history? Your League is here with tips and resources for success.

During this general session on Thursday, Sept. 23, the MML’s legislative and policy research staff will present how we got here, what’s next, and what tools are available for you and your community as you build a bridge to the future.

Thursday, Sept. 23, General Session: Bridge Builders

Join us for an engaging panel discussion from Michigan Municipal League Foundation Bridge Builder Grantees! This panel will provide expertise and insight as a leader and community builder in Michigan, their experience as a Bridge Builders grant recipient, and the importance of strong social connections in revitalizing Michigan communities as we try to heal and emerge as a society from the pandemic better than we went into it. This session will be led by Theresa Rosado Nanasy, of Casa de Rosado Galeria.

General session, Friday, Sept. 24: On the Ground with Community Wealth Building

As the League continues to roll out its evolving focus on Community Wealth Building, we’re showcasing inspiring examples that exemplify the spirit of this work. This panel discussion will feature community and municipal leaders who are leveraging partnerships, advancing creative solutions, and carrying out initiatives that improve the human experience in Michigan communities. The scheduled speakers are Robert LaFave, City Manager, Community Solar Array, City of L’Anse; Mark Vanderpool, City Manager, City of Sterling Heights; Glenn Wilson, President & CEO, Communities First, Inc.

And here are some of the breakout-session and local tours we have planned:

Breakout: Updating the Master Plan (Thursday) – Whether a routine 5-year update, or the first big rewrite in a while, updating your master plan is a chance to engage residents and think about your community’s assets and aspirations. This session will be a refresher on the basic requirements of the Michigan Planning Enabling Act, as well as a discussion of how new tools and trends affect your planning. Speakers planned are Lynee Wells, Aligned Planning; Andrew Moore, Williams+Works; and Christopher Germain, MEDC.

Breakout: The Other CEO: Hear from Jackson’s Chief Equity Officer (Thursday) – Jackson, Michigan hired their first Chief Equity Officer in 2020, and created their Racial Equity Commission at that time. Several Michigan communities have either hired people to focus on equity, created commissions to do so, or have created equity plans to get started on their journey. Is your community considering diving into Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work? Attend this session to learn what the city of Jackson has been up to and their plans for moving forward. Session speaker is John Willis, Chief Equity Officer, City of Jackson.

Breakout: Many Talents, Many Solutions: Climate Change Adaptation Strategies (Thursday) – Hear from Dr. Timothy Scarlett, Associate Professor of Archaeology, Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University, about hydro generated power storage in historic mines in the Upper Peninsula. He is an anthropologist working with a multi-disciplinary team to address climate change and energy generation needs to reduce carbon emissions. “Energy transition is multi-dimensional, complex, non-linear, non-deterministic, and highly uncertain. . . It’s a multi-layered process with multiple actors.” – Fattouh, Poudineh, and West, 2019

Breakout: Brand & Identity (Thursday) – See the marketing world through the eyes of Rob McCarty, of The Image Shoppe, who brings a passion for inclusivity and culture. Leave this session with a new perspective on how municipalitis can view themselves as a brand and utilize this vantage point as they approach solutions within their communities.

Breakout: Building Bridges (Thursday): Putting the Power to Create Trust & Belonging in Residents’ Hands with speaker Jon Robison, Co-Founder, Salveo Partners, LLC.

Breakout: Advancing Sustainability (Thursday): Tools for Being a Green Community – Local governments are faced with a host of climate and environment-related issues that challenge the physical and economic resiliency of their communities.  Preparing for and adapting to changes in our climate and natural systems can seem daunting.  But there are many straightforward solutions and strategies that communities can adopt that not only help mitigate risk but improve the lives of residents and help grow our local economies.  In this session, attendees will hear from local and state practitioners about programs and policies that communities can use to “go greener” and improve their sustainability. Scheduled speakers are Matt Naud, Resource Recycling Systems; Julie Staveland, Michigan Department of EGLE; and Amy Tweeten, City of Petoskey.

Breakout: Neighborhoods for More Neighbors: Making Room for Everyone (Thursday) – Many of our communities have faced tight housing markets and rising prices in recent years as they have attracted new residents, potentially putting homes out of reach or displacing others. How can we make space in our communities to welcome new neighbors without pitting them against older neighbors? Planned speakers are Linh Song, Councilmember, Ann Arbor; Eric Hufnagel, Mayor, St. Johns and Executive Director, Michigan  Coalition Against Homelessness; Ryan Kilpatrick, Executive Director, Housing Next (Ottawa County); Yarrow Brown, Executive Director, Housing North (Northwest Lower Peninsula).

Breakout: Trust & Belonging in the Workplace (Thursday) with speaker Steve Robbins, Founder and owner of S.L. Robbins and Associates.

Breakout: Marijuana Petitions Ballot Proposals (Friday) – Municipalities have been receiving initiatory petitions for both ordinances and charter amendments for recreational and medical marihuana. The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) provides, “Individuals may petition to initiate an ordinance to provide for the number of marihuana establishments allowed within a municipality or to completely prohibit marihuana establishments within a municipality.” The medical marihuana statute, MMFLA, does not provide for an initiatory process. As a result, citizen groups are submitting petitions for charter amendments. This session will cover both ordinance and charter amendment petitions for recreational and medical marihuana. These questions will also be addressed: What happens if a proposed ordinance goes beyond the statutory parameters? How does the statute relate to a city charter, which may have its own petition requirements? What role do municipalities play in ensuring that the various legal requirements for ordinance and charter amendments have been followed?

Local Tour – ArtPrize (Thursday): Grand Rapid’s ArtPrize began nearly 12 years ago as an experiment—a totally new event, unlike anything the world had ever seen. ArtPrize is an all-volunteer, artist-led initiative focused on creating projects and events in unique spaces. Since its inception, millions have participated, displaying their work, opening their spaces to artists and visitors from around the world, and sparking countless conversations about what art is and why it matters. Art plays an integral part in forming community identity and creating connections. On this exciting bus tour, hosted by ArtPrize staff, we will discuss the concept of Community Wealth Building and how it relates to arts and culture throughout Michigan. We will view indoor and outdoor works of art throughout the city in public parks and museums, in galleries and vacant storefronts, in bars and on bridges. Please join us and come away with ideas to take back to your community. Tour guide will be Derek Call of ArtPrize.

Local Tour: Evolution of Grand Rapids (Friday) – How far Grand Rapids has come – in such a short period of time! Mark Miller from Grand Rapids Inc. will lead you on a walking tour of downtown Grand Rapids, take you to Bridge Street via the shuttle bus, then head to Uptown.  If there is time, a trip to Grandville Ave will happen as well– especially the Plaza Roosevelt project. Tour guide will be Mark Miller, Grand Rapids Inc.

Local Tour: A Walk in the Park – The Importance of Parks & Rec During a Global Pandemic (Friday) – We know that parks and trails play a vital role in creating a community and that has been even more apparent this past year during the pandemic. Our attendees to have the opportunity to hear about the incredible partnership Friends of Grand Rapids Parks has created with the Grand Rapids Parks and Recs department and get a firsthand experience seeing parks and trails that have been key in connecting people throughout the city. Tour guide will be Stephanie Adams, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Local Tour: Innovative Solutions for Attainable Housing (Friday) – Come tour completed examples of innovative housing in the Grand Rapids area, with conversations about creating new housing units that don’t cost a fortune. The tour guide will be Ryan VerWys, President and CEO of ICCF, Grand Rapids.


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