In an exclusive agenda-setting interview Friday afternoon, Gov. Rick Snyder said the financial crisis in Detroit is one of his major challenges for 2012.
The governor said helping the city work through its financial mess before April when the city could run out of cash is not about controlling the city.
“And I always want to be careful,” Snyder explained. “It’s not about us running the city, but working in an environment that fosters a collaborative partnership arrangement, where we can be a supporting resource.”
Snyder said he understands how politics has been driving the conversation around Detroit’s financial woes, but noted that he chose Detroiters with deep roots in the city to help address the crisis.
The review team includes New Detroit, Inc CEO Shirley Stancato, Detroit Medical Center Chief Administrative Officer Conrad Mallett, former Wayne State University President Irvin Reid, former Marygrove College President Dr. Glenda Price, and former Detroit Police Chief Isaiah “Ike” McKinnon, among others.
“They’re doing this in a very objective way, to say this isn’t about race, this isn’t about any other feature. This is basically on financial facts,” Snyder said.
He noted that he is not meeting with the review team to influence and they each bring independence and credibility to the team.
Snyder said the state should not be the only one involved in helping Detroit emerge out of this financial nightmare, but every entity that’s tied to the investment and future of Detroit.
Public safety has been a major issue not only in Detroit but across the state, especially in urban centers where limited resources have affected effective community policing. The governor said he has a plan to do a special message on public safety in March.
“That’s one of the fundamentals that some of our cities need, to have better support, and we need more to resolve some of the long-term issues,” Snyder said. “Because I’m going to be clear that crime actually went down in Michigan last year, statewide. But four of the 10 most violent cities in the United States are in Michigan, and that’s not acceptable.”
Snyder cited Saginaw, Pontiac, Flint and Detroit as the four.
“I think that’s wrong,” Snyder said, adding that he won’t go through a lot of specifics during his upcoming State of the State Address, but will indicate that it cannot be accepted.
In his address to the state, Snyder, said “The way I view it, I’m going to get up and talk about the dashboard again. The dashboard I showed last year. I’m not going to go through every item, but I’m going to highlight some of the key ones that really stand out.”
The unemployment statistics will stand out in the governor’s address.
“We may actually have a newer number by next week,” Snyder said. “But right now, we’re at 9.8 percent. It’s the lowest level in three years. Major improvement over the last 12 months.”
But Snyder is especially concerned about obesity, pointing out that the Wolverine state is becoming more obese.
“If you think about it, if we could address that with programs like the Four-By-Four Wellness Plan I supported and I’m trying to lose weight on, we could dramatically cut our health care costs,” Snyder said. “And we all control that. So that’s something that we just need do a better job with as a state.”
Looking at 2011, Snyder said it was the year of policy changes, of resetting the legal regulatory framework of job creation in the state.
“We had a very productive year,” Snyder said. “We got a lot done” while adding that Michigan is becoming the place to be.
“One cool illustration was the Atlas Van Line thing that just came out,” the governor said, referring to the Allied Van Lines 44th annual Magnet States Report. “It’s not in our dashboard, but it showed for the first time in, I think eight years, the last eight years it had all been outbound. We’re not classified as inbound yet, we’re classified as balanced. We’ve reached a point of stability now where we have people coming back to Michigan because there’s opportunity here.”
The year 2012 is the implementation year.
“A lot of these things don’t even take effect until this year, but the other part is we’ve done a lot of those tough things and hit the reset button on a lot of them,” Snyder said. “You don’t just keep on moving the things around. You make sure you do them really well, and give them a chance to work, and you follow through.”
The governor said he sees 2012 as the year of good government, because “it’s about customer service government” and how his administration can empower the workforce as well as spend more time working with state employees and their working with local partners.
Any special challenge in 2012?
“This will be a job addition year, just like this last year was, in terms of good news going on,” Snyder said. “But the biggest single challenge, I would say, is this issue of our cities and some of our schools.”
Snyder also called for more collaboration and partnerships among municipalities in Michigan to share and consolidate their services to better serve their residents.
“One thing we did when we did last year’s budget is we set aside a $5 million pot for, essentially, governmental entrepreneurship,” Snyder said. “So, it’s basically saying ‘here’s a pot of one-time money that jurisdictions that come together can apply for on whatever idea they want, as long as it has a great return on investment, great value for the money for our citizens.”
Snyder said that he didn’t make it over prescriptive because he wanted to have various jurisdictions come up with ideas that they would own and
execute without state intervention.
The governor cited as an example Grand Rapids, Lansing and Saginaw coming together to process their income taxes together, something he said other municipalities could do with each other for efficiency.
“Now that doesn’t sound real exciting,” Snyder said, but he noted that the state gave a grant that pays a significant amount toward such a project.
“It’s an example of success,” Snyder said, adding that the state has set aside $5 million and has received applications for $20 million, based on ideas various jurisdictions are coming forward with.
“That’s cool,” Snyder said.
A jurisdiction, he pointed out, doesn’t have to partner with a peer. It can be a partnership with the state itself.
“Again, it’s all about partnership without worrying about overdoing the boundaries and constraints of who you partner with,” Snyder said.
Snyder also wants to reform the criminal justice system in Michigan in 2012.
“Everything from prosecutors to jails to courts to corrections, to when people are out,” Snyder said. “We need to take a whole new look at that.”
The best way bring down the crime rate, he believes, is to have the person who would have committed the crime have a job, “so they never go there to begin with.”
With regard to regional transportation, Snyder said M-1 vs. a regional transit authority aren’t mutually exclusive.
“They can actually parallel path in many respects.”
Staff writer Rick Keating contributed to this report.
Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle and the author of a six-part series on the Obama presidency, including “Obama and Black Loyalty,” published last year. His latest book is “Obama and Christian Loyalty” with an epilogue written by Bob Weiner, former White House spokesman. His upcoming books in 2012 are “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” and “Obama and Business Loyalty.” Listen to him every Thursday, 11:30 a.m., on WDET 101.9 FM Detroit and every Sunday, 9 to 10 p.m., on the “Obama Watch” program on WLIB 1190 AM-New York. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.