Remarks Presented at the Michigan Future Forum

Metropolitan Governance for a Changing Economy

Introduction

Thank you for the invitation to speak today. It is a pleasure to return to the Michigan Future Forum, particularly with my close friend and colleague, Myron Orfield.

It is also a pleasure to come back to Michigan, particularly at this time of the year.

But I think now is a particularly good time to be in the state to discuss issues around regional growth, competitiveness and governance.

It's a good time to be here because of the difficult economic and fiscal environment in this state and across the country. Now more than ever, the imperative of controlling costs is making the reform of uncontrolled, unplanned and wasteful growth patterns unavoidable. In short, bad times turn out to be precisely the right time to tackle thorny issues of land use, infrastructure, urban vitality and fragmented governance.

It's also a good time to talk about these issues because of the bipartisan effort and energy that went into the preparation of the final report by the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council. I commend the Council for conducting an open and inclusive and extensive process in a very short time period. I also commend Governor Granholm and the state legislative leaders for their efforts in forming the Council.

If the Council's work is taken seriously, Michigan could be on the cusp of charting a very different course of economic growth and fiscal responsibility in the future.

I want to make three major points today.

  • The first point is that there is a fundamental disconnect between how we live and work in America and how we govern. That disconnect is very apparent in the state of Michigan where a tradition of home rule and localism continues amid broader patterns of population and employment decentralization.

  • The second point is that this disconnect has significant consequences. The mismatch between governance and the economy undermines the competitiveness of places, raises the cost of doing business and delivering services and exacerbates sprawling development trends as well as patterns of racial and class separation.

  • The final point is that change is possible and is already occurring. I will give five examples of things the state and its regions can do to advance regional collaboration, some of which emanate from the Land Use Leadership Council, all of which I think are politically feasible.