Resources & Research


These publications have been developed to help you carry out your role as a municipal official.

A Decade of Placemaking in Michigan

Placemaking is a critical strategy for creating economically prosperous communities – large and small. The Michigan Municipal League recognized this over a decade ago through significant research, and has dedicated tremendous resources to advancing this strategy in Michigan and nationwide.

As the League moves forward in pursuing programs and policies that support prosperous communities, it is important to pause and take stock of where the organization has been. This retrospective highlights the history of placemaking, the programs and efforts the League, with key partnerships, has undertaken in support of placemaking, and how those activities have shaped policies and quality of life in Michigan communities.

Creating Better Futures Policy Brief Series

The Michigan Municipal League’s Creating Better Futures policy brief series provides focused research summaries and recommendations on some of the most pressing issues facing Michigan communities now and in the coming years. Research by Citizens Research Council of Michigan and Altarum (2023) shows troubling trends for Michigan’s population and economy. Stagnating to declining population by 2035, a decreasing number of working-age people, and a continued shift in the global economy away from Michigan’s historic economic stronghold—the auto industry—all pose significant challenges for the state’s economic and social well-being.

This short policy brief series will help communities plan for current and future conditions by providing some essential background information and exploring local policy options on topics related to these challenges, including: housing, climate resilience, local economies and small business support.

Intro: Creating Better Futures
Climate and Demographics
Making Space for Every Entrepreneur

Handbook for General Law Village Officials

This newly revised and greatly expanded handbook is essential reading material for both new and veteran elected and appointed officials in general law villages. Topics covered include basics of public service; the structure and function of village government in Michigan; specifics about the roles and responsibilities of general law village officials; options for delivering village services to residents; how to select and work with consultants; and in-depth tips about the operation of village government including written procedures, village financial operations, personnel and human resources issues, labor relations issues, risk management and environmental concerns. Numerous appendices cover the 1998 revisions to the GLV Act; a summary of other laws that affect GLVs; the full text of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act; sample rules of procedure for GLV council meetings; and five key sample ordinances. A Michigan Municipal League publication. Approx. 180 pages.

Michigan: State of the Cities

Each year, dozens of mayors, city managers, and other local leaders give a “State of the City/Village” address in their communities in which they highlight key priorities, challenges, and accomplishments. The speeches help improve transparency and connect local leaders with their constituents.

The Michigan Municipal League has published our Michigan: State of the Cities 2018 report summarizing key themes and priorities presented in these speeches. Modeled after the National League of Cities State of the Cities effort, the League’s report highlights key findings in 11 top line categories such as economic development and public safety, and breaks down how the speeches addressed specific subtopics or issues within each of those broader categories. It provides a snapshot of the priority issues, challenges and accomplishments of municipalities across the state each year.

Michigan: State of the Cities 2018
Michigan: State of the Cities 2017

Pattern Book Homes for 21st Century Michigan

This Used to Be Normal: Pattern Book Homes for 21st Century Michigan is a guide for creating new multi-unit housing models on vacant lots in downtown-adjacent neighborhoods in Michigan communities. These copyright-free 95%-complete construction plans are modeled after popular kit homes constructed during the state’s housing boom in the early part of the 20th century. Home builders can choose from two-family homes and four-family homes that use architectural themes designed to fit into existing Michigan neighborhoods. The guide also offers a toolkit to help communities modernize their zoning codes to allow for more multi-family construction like the homes envisioned in the Pattern Book.

Planning Commissioners Handbook

This book was written to help new planning commissioners become effective commissioners. The topics covered include tools for planning commissioners, preparing for meetings, meeting the public, how knowledge of the zoning ordinance and applying ordinance standards will help you make decisions that will stick and what the future holds for planning commissioners. Written by Steve Langworthy, published by the Michigan Municipal League. 50 pages.

Predevelopment Assistance Program

We work with Michigan communities through the Predevelopment Assistance Program, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), to provide resources and guidance for community reinvestment and redevelopment. We’ve helped 34 communities with over 70 projects since 2017. Learn more about the benefits of the Predevelopment Assistance Program from our new publication, “Our Future Communities Start Here: Predevelopment Assistance for Growth & Advancement in Michigan.”

Records Management Handbook:

Guidelines and Approved Retention and Disposal Schedule for Cities and Villages
Michigan law requires that:

  • all records be listed on an approved Retention and Disposal Schedule and
  • all retention and disposal schedules must be formally approved by the Records Management Services [in the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget], the Archives of Michigan, and the State Administrative Board.

Note: Schedule #8, Records Management Handbook: Guidelines and Approved Retention and Disposal Schedule for Cities and Villages is an approved schedule*. However, there have been significant changes regarding its updating. Instead of updating the entire schedule, the state’s Records Management Services has updated parts of it in sections, as separate schedules.

If you have adopted and used Schedule #8, you now need to adopt the separate schedules that have superseded sections of this book. For example, the Elections schedule (schedule #23) and the Clerks schedule (schedule #24) have superseded sections of Schedule #8, Records Management Handbook: Guidelines and Approved Retention and Disposal Schedule for Cities and Villages.

Not all the new schedules promulgated by Records Management Services supersede sections of the Records Management Handbook. Schedules such as Public Libraries (schedule # 17) and Human Resources (schedule #26) are new, and were never a part of the original general schedule. You should look over the list of general schedules (which contains schedules updated or created through January 2022) and adopt the schedules that are appropriate for your municipality.

*The schedule in this handbook has been pre-approved by the State of Michigan. It contains the usual documents found in most municipal departments. For questions on records retention schedules, contact:

Caryn Wojcik, Government Records Archivist
State of Michigan, Records Management Services
3400 N. Grand River Ave.
PO Box 30026
Lansing MI 48909
(517) 335-8222

Restoring Michigan Communities Building by Building

This manual is intended to provide the basics for restoring Michigan communities—building by building. It focuses on the problems faced by the largest and the smallest of our communities. How do we effectively deal with dangerous and unsafe buildings? How can we best address the problems of litter, overgrown weeds, and abandoned buildings? We do so by acknowledging that the problems, unless dealt with effectively and quickly, not only impede our community progress but also sap our community spirit.

We know that vibrant communities have, in common, walkable downtowns, flourishing retail districts, exciting cultural opportunities, affordable housing and educational opportunities. We also know that favorable design concepts promote mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods that work to retain and attract young people and their employers to Michigan and the “new retirees” of the baby boomer generation. We know what works—we need to make sure that we have in place the tools that permit us to create vibrant communities in our downtowns, neighborhoods and regions.

Zoning Board of Appeals Handbook

This handbook was written to help new zoning board of appeals members understand the scope of their role and responsibilities, and to provide them with a basis of understanding in order to capably perform their duties within the law. Topics covered include: the role of the ZBA as a whole and as individual members; an explanation of the zoning enabling acts; the ZBA’s relationship to other municipal bodies and individuals; how to identify and handle conflicts of interest; hot to interpret a zoning ordinance; types of variances; preparing for and conducting meetings; and guidelines for making tough decisions. Written by Steve Langworthy. 40 pages.

Contact: Kim Cekola, Research Specialist / Editor
Phone: 734.669.6321 or Email: [email protected]

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