Director of Communications
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317; C: (810) 874-1073
[email protected]; www.mml.org
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 14, 2019
Whitmer, Other Leaders Discuss Infrastructure Funding Needs at Summit
Focusing on Power of Placemaking, Discussion Brings Together Governor, mayors, state and national experts
LANSING, Mich. ― Governor Whitmer, local mayors and business leaders came together at the Midwestern Infrastructure Summit to discuss the urgent and critical need to invest in Michigan’s infrastructure, and the benefits of that investment include creating places that are more attractive to talent and business.
The public summit was co-hosted today by the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association (MITA), at Lansing Brewing Company, one of four held nationwide during national Infrastructure Week.
“Our cities and our state are at a crossroads where we must make drastic funding changes for our infrastructures and our cities. This summit is an opportunity to discuss the issues and showcase what our leaders in the legislative and business community are doing to move Michigan forward,” said Dan Gilmartin, Executive Director & CEO of MML.
Although the state’s infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers was given a D+ rating, the discussion went beyond roads and bridges, noting that moving Michigan forward means more than just investing in infrastructure – it is investing in communities. On that level, Mayor Andy Schor (Lansing) and Mayor Bobby J. Hopewell (Kalamazoo) led the discussion on the need to redesign the funding formula around local city investment.
“You dive in and you fix it” said Kalamazoo Mayor Hopewell. “We have a major crisis and we still don’t understand the importance of the need for infrastructure.”
Both mayors emphasized the impact that a properly-funded infrastructure would have on smart placemaking strategies that improving the quality of life by creating walkable, bike able communities that attract young people and empty nesters. They spoke of the challenges that mayors face while allocating budget between infrastructure, safety and building the quality of life through parks and recreation, with placemaking often suffering during tight budgets like Michigan cities have faced the last 15 years.
Mike Nystrom, Executive Vice President of MITA, stated, “We have systems around the state that are over 100 years old, we have to address these problems.” Nystrom discussed the importance of fully funding infrastructure projects now and that putting off projects will cause even higher costs in the future, funding that could go towards placemaking and creating desirable communities to live and work.
It’s important that leaders educate the public and debunk myths around Michigan’s infrastructure problem and potential solutions, Nystrom said. For instance, while many blame heavy trucks for highway failures, Nystrom pointed out that roughly 5% of trucks exceed the posted weight limits and many trucks don’t travel on roads with the worst quality. And many Michiganders remain unaware how little they pay in taxes for roads, he noted.
Business leaders from Delta Dental, QuickenLoans and the Michigan AARP discussed the importance of investing in infrastructure in Michigan’s talent and business hubs to attract and retain population, workers and job creators. Residents, both young and old, are focused on walkability and transportation in the cities that they live in. Businesses take into account mobility of city centers when looking at site locations to invest in, with cities now taking an “all of the above” approach to make their communities more attractive to investors.
Mayors and community leaders continued to emphasize the importance of creating an environment that caters to both young professionals and empty nesters, including infrastructure and the city and cultural amenities that are important to enhance the quality of life. The plans that are being developed today, caters to communities where the culture, residents and the needs of both, will continue to change.
Closing the summit was Governor Whitmer, who said it was Michigan’s people who led her to a strong position on fixing Michigan’s roads — leading to her proposed 45 cent a gallon gasoline tax increase to fund $2.5 billion of highway work across the state.
“It was made clear to me in a conversation that I was having with a couple of moms. I asked them, “What is the most important issue to you?” Each of them said, “I just need you to fix the damn roads,”” Whitmer said. “We have the worst roads in the nation. Not because we don’t know how to build good roads but because we are not investing in them.”
For additional information, contact Matt Bach, the League’s director of communications, at (810) 874-1073 (cell); (734) 669-6317 (office) and [email protected]
About the League: Michigan Municipal League is dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services. Learn more at mml.org.