2012: A Year of Change and Progress
Good evening, and welcome to the State of the County address.
I want to thank Mayor Dave Bing, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel,
and Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson for joining us tonight.
Brooks, you said last month, that you would be walking on stage for your next
State of the County, and we hope to see you do just that. And, we continue to offer our prayers for your driver and friend, Jim Cram.
Chairman Woronchak, Wayne County Commission members, Sheriff Napoleon, Treasurer Wojtowicz, and all the other elected officials and fellow citizens, welcome.
I also want to welcome those who are listening to us live on WJR-760 AM,
or viewing the streaming video on the Wayne County website at waynecounty.com.
Our thanks to the Garden City High School Choir… didn't they do a great job?
I also want to thank Jeff Collins for that wonderful introduction. Jeff is my deputy County Executive and has been a great partner as we steer the County on a straight course.
We've already heard about the state of the City of Detroit, and the state of Macomb and Oakland counties, so I guess I'm batting clean-up tonight. I'm not sure how many runs I'll drive in… but I hope to drive home some points that will give the hometown fans something to cheer about.
Before I begin, I'd like to take a moment to recognize all of the men and women in uniform who serve our community.
Whether you are a member of our local police, Sheriff's or fire departments, or you've served in the military at home or abroad… I want to thank you for your efforts on our behalf. We owe a special thanks to the first-responders in our community who have given their lives in the line of duty.
Last month I announced plans to build a memorial in Plymouth Township. This memorial in Hines Park will bear the names of fallen police, fire and EMS- first-responders from our county's 43 communities. The construction will be funded through the county parks millage, and we'll hold an annual half-marathon and 5K Run to raise funds for maintenance. It's our way of honoring and remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our community.
It's always a great privilege to talk about where we are, and where we are going, as a county.
But I am especially pleased to share that information with you tonight, because I think a lot of people aren't aware of all the great things happening here.
2012 was a year of change, and a year of progress. We continue to face major challenges in Wayne County, and I'm going to talk candidly about them this evening.
But those who only focus on our problems tend to overlook the tremendous progress we've made.
So I'm going to talk about that progress, as well and we may surprise a few people, because we have a lot to talk about.
This is my eleventh state of the county address. After all these years I still have a passion for what I'm doing, and I'm excited by the advances we are making. It's extremely rewarding to see projects we've worked long and hard on becoming reality - the Cobo Hall renovation and expansion, the Aerotropolis, and, the Regional Transit Authority. You may have noticed a common denominator to these success stories - regional cooperation.
That's an extremely important subject that I will address tonight. And why I'm so glad to have Dave Bing, Brooks Patterson and Mark Hackel as team mates for our region.
I'm also excited to talk about the jobs and growth we're bringing in.
Let's talk about the challenges we face. There were two that got most of the attention in the past year.
The first, and most personally painful to me, were the actions that were taken by some members of my team that were not in the best interests of the community.
In my state of the county address last year I promised that going forward we would do things differently, and do things better. That we would be more responsive and responsible to the people of Wayne County… more transparent, accountable, and effective.
I've done everything in my power to keep that promise. I have rebuilt my administration with an executive team that is 100% committed to good government. They include: Deputy County Executive, Director of Economic Development Growth Engine, Corp Counsel, COO, Directors of:
Communications, Information Technology, Homeland Security & Emergency Management, Personnel & Human Resources and Public Services & Environment.
They join a steadfast group of executives that continue to do outstanding work, day-in and day-out: our CFO, Assistant CEOs, and Department Heads.
We have a lot of new faces, but our team is talented and experienced. You will hear about
all the great things they are doing in a moment. For now I will just tell you this: every one of them is 100% focused on ensuring Wayne County government operates with the highest ethical standards.
Our team has changed and I'm sure they would tell you that I have, too. I've been more engaged, focused and more involved in details. I assure you, lessons have been learned by all.
As I told you last year, I'm not a quitter, I'm a fighter.
We have a great team of dedicated public servants here, and we're going to keep working hard for the people of Wayne County. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank my team for the great job they are doing. Could I ask all of our executive team members and department directors to stand up?
The other major challenge we faced this year was the ongoing task of digging ourselves out of the disastrous consequences of the Great Recession. Since 2008, property tax revenue in Wayne County has declined by nearly 30%. We have
$100 million dollars less revenue annually for our general fund than we had five years ago, and that drastically impacts operating expenses.
In some of our communities, property values are starting to increase, while others continue to fall. We are projecting that overall values will begin stabilizing this year and next, but currently assessed values are at a twelve year low. And it's going to be a long, slow climb back.
Once property values begin to improve, Proposal A and the Headlee amendment will limit the increase of taxable values to a maximum of 5% a year. Because of these caps, even with a rebound in real estate values, we are projecting it will take until 2025 to climb back to 2008 revenue levels.
This is a problem that is affecting every local government in Michigan, not just Wayne County.
In 2012 the Michigan State Housing Development Authority listed 180 cities, villages and townships as Eligible Distressed Areas. Right now there are five Michigan cities with Emergency Managers - with a sixth announced on Friday.
These are communities that are experiencing tremendous economic hardship,
which causes a greater need for services and at the same time less money to pay for them. That's a terrible combination. We have a number of mayors and supervisors with us here in the audience tonight who are dealing with this revenue crisis every day. The long-term solution will require significant changes in the municipal financing structure in our state. In the meantime, we haven't been waiting around for long-term solutions - we've been making dramatic changes to get our fiscal house in order.
Over the past several years, with the help of elected officials, department heads andemployees, we've taken major steps to streamline our operations and balance our budget.
We've reduced our workforce by 35%, or more than 2,000 positions. We've implemented salary reductions and furlough days. We've introduced healthcare cost-sharing and retirement incentives.
Since 2008, I've cut the number of my own at-will employees by 30%. All of these things helped us reduce the General Fund General Purpose accumulated deficit by 26% from 2010 to the end of the last fiscal year.
The decisions we made, and the actions we took, were often painful. Layoffs don't just affect employees, they are tough on their families, too. It's not something we like to do. But we have to deal with the reality. And that's what we're doing.
Those who thought the challenges of the last year would distract or discourage us were mistaken. We've never lost sight of our mission of serving the citizens of Wayne County,
and helping to ensure and enhance their safety, health, and well-being. I am proud to report that we have a lot of successes in all of these areas.
Keeping our citizens safe is our top priority. In 2012, we continued our tireless work to improve the safety of all of our citizens, young and old, while also investing in and refining our justice system. Our Department of Homeland Security continued its work with regional partners under the Urban Area Security Initiative program.
This means providing first responders with equipment and technology, such as an armored law enforcement personnel carrier for Downriver, Mutual Aid, a mobile command post for Airport Authority emergency personnel, and, a response robot for hazardous material response teams.
Homeland Security is also working with our Regional Educational Service Agency to hold safety seminars with teachers throughout the county. And I've instructed my staff to provide any needed support and training when trouble comes into our schools. Because there is nothing more important than the safety of our children.
In addition, we are finalizing a public-private initiative to help address gun violence. We have all been saddened by the recent horrific shootings of children in Connecticut and elsewhere.
With the collaboration of local clergy, the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and private financial sponsorship provided under the leadership of the outstanding local law firm Goodman Acker, we will soon announce the details of a gun buy-back program in Wayne County.
Children and Family Services, which helps at-risk and adjudicated juveniles, has been collaborating on a plan to address the mental health and substance use needs of youths in the justice system, as well as their families.
This "Enhanced Benefit Plan," which will provide mental health services primarily covered by Medicaid funds, is projected to save the county $4 million dollars.
At our Juvenile Detention Facility, I'm particularly proud of the Foster Grandparents Program...where twelve senior men and women volunteer at the facility, providing support and teaching self-respect, while also reinforcing respect for elders.
Would all of the Foster Grandparent volunteers here with us this evening, please stand.
Thank you all so much for the support you are giving our young people.
I also am very pleased with our Correct Course Juvenile Diversion Program, which is steering at-risk juveniles in the right direction.
Recent data shows that nearly 90% of the 2,800 youth that completed the program have not had a repeat offense, which means that these young people are making better life decisions…and are on their way to becoming productive members of the community.
Programs like these resulted in CFS receiving a Letter of Commendation from the U.S. Department of Justice for the work they do providing services to detained and at-risk youth.
While safety is our foremost concern, we also work tirelessly to improve the health and welfare of our 1.8 million citizens.
This includes efforts to extend medical coverage to those in need, provide important mental health services, and keep our county clean.
In 2012 Wayne County Health and Family Services was awarded a five year, $11.5 million dollar Head Start grant to establish a center to serve more than 300 children and families in Detroit.
They also received awards for outstanding programs dealing with obesity, ...diabetes prevention,... childhood development,... and, adult literacy.
And they provided more than 4,000 vaccinations to prevent diseases in children and adults.
Out in the community, Health and Family Services operates two on-site dental clinics, which support more than 500 Head Start children.
A third clinic just opened in January in Highland Park.
In 2012 we were awarded a $1.2 million dollar grant to establish a community health center in Hamtramck.
The Hamtramck Health Center will help families get the quality care they need regardless of their health insurance status.
The Health on Wheels program is a new way we're reaching out to our citizens.
Working with the City of Detroit and local health providers, we offer free screenings for cancer, HIV/AIDS, strokes, and asthma, as well as free flu shots and dental exams.
Since the program launched last November, nearly 1,000 people have been served at these mobile health centers.
Keeping our county clean is another top priority for us.
In 2012, our Land Resource Management Division conducted 44 cleanup projects, including31 illegal dump sites.
The Water Quality Management Division worked to find and correct improper connections of sewers to waterways, preventing more than three million gallons of polluted water from reaching our rivers, lakes and streams.
They also removed the dam across the lower Rouge River at Wayne Road, improving wildlife populations and making fishing possible once again.
Being able to go fishing might not seem like a major breakthrough, but quality of life is an essential element of a strong, healthy community.
That's why we continue to support public spaces and events, even when times are tough.
From Jazz on the River at Elizabeth Park in Trenton, ...to the holiday Lightfest in Hines Park, ...to the Family Aquatic Center at Chandler Park in Detroit, we want Wayne County to be a family friendly place to work and play.
A great example of this is the work being done downriver to create vibrant, thriving communities that are fun to visit.
If you haven't been to one of the monthly Third Friday events in Wyandotte, or any of the other great events taking place downriver, I encourage you to go.
Providing and maintaining infrastructure is another crucial part of our operations.
Whether it is through participation in the recently created Regional Transit Authority or the upkeep and expansion of our road system, we aim to make Wayne County a great place to live and work.
Perhaps the most important piece of infrastructure news is the New International Trade Crossing, which will make our county home to the largest international crossing between Canada and the U.S.
This was a major win for the county, and I believe it will pay major dividends for the future of our region.
Connecting motorists to our new bridge are nearly 6,000 miles of roads in our county.
If you don't have a Google map handy, that is longer than the distance from Detroit to Rome.
Now that the bridge project is moving forward,we need to turn our attention to the next major step required to improve the border crossing - the renovation of the railroad tunnel between Detroit and Windsor.
Right now that tunnel can only accommodate trains that are a single car in height.
That was fine when the tunnel was built more than 100 years ago, but today, rail freight is hauled in double-stacked cars.
That crossing is inefficient and ineffective.
We need a tunnel with higher clearance to bring it into the 21st century.
To oversee snow and ice removal, ...traffic monitoring,... and salt trucks for these roads that connect us to the rest of the region and the world, ...we recently unveiled a new
Command Center at the Central Maintenance Road Yard in Romulus.
This state-of-the-art center lets our staff take road hazard calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Our Compass website, which we introduced last winter, shows people the location of salt trucks and roads that have been plowed when it snows - in real time.
It's one of the first systems of its kind in the country, and it's had rave reviews from motorists who use it to manage their commute during snowstorms.
This system has also received national attention and acclaim.
Speaking of snowstorms, I want take this opportunity to thank all of our road crews for the job they've done this winter.
You kept us moving in all kinds of weather, and we really appreciate it.
We completed another very successful round of road construction last spring and summer.
In all, we finished $10.2 million dollars in projects, from Detroit to Northville Township and everywhere in between.
And as soon as winter breaks, we're ready to get back to it.
One project that is particularly worth highlighting is the realignment and reconstruction of Ecorse Road in Van Buren Township, which began last year and will finish in 2013.
This $7.4 million dollar project is a partnership between Wayne County and the Van Buren Township Downtown Development Authority.
When it's complete, the intersection at Ecorse and Belleville Road will be safer for motorists and generate better access in the western corner of the Aerotropolis.
That spirit of cooperation is also behind the Regional Transit Authority, which goes into effect on March 28.
It covers Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Washtenaw counties, as well as the City of Detroit.
The RTA will work with the Federal Transit Administration to coordinate existing bus service in the region and establish a regional bus rapid transit system.
The RTA, signed in to law this past December, requires that Dave, Brooks, Mark and myself select the majority of Board Members, as we continue our collaborationon this important task.
For Wayne County's part, we have spent the past two months meeting with interested community groups and hearing from representatives of business and labor organizations.
Over 30 distinguished individuals were recommended and considered.
I am pleased to report tonight that I have appointed two experienced individuals who bring to this task a strong commitment to regional cooperation on transportation.
Dr. Curtis Ivery of Detroit, is Chancellor of the Wayne County Community College District.
As Chief Executive Officer he directs five campuses which serve more than 72,000 students annually.
Mr. Mark Gaffney of Dearborn, is the former President of the Michigan AFL-CIO, an association of 40 labor unions representing over 700-thousand active and retired union members.
Dr. Ivery and Mr. Gaffney,please stand and be recognized as we thank you for your service in this important and challenging endeavor.
It is our responsibility to keep our citizens safe and healthy, and provide them with a functionaland efficient infrastructure.
But we know that the well-being of our county and its citizens ultimately rests on the economic foundation that we build.
We continued our intense focus on economic development in 2012, and I'm pleased to report we had great success.
I can describe how we measure that success in three words: jobs, jobs, jobs.
Michigan's fortunes depend on the economy of our region.
According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, since 2009, 38% of all investment in the entire State of Michigan happened here in Wayne County, along with 41% of all the new jobs created.
In the first six monthsof 2012, Wayne County saw jobs grow by more than 18,000.
When the year-end numbers come in, we expect to see that number grow to about 30,000 new jobs.
We want to keep that positive momentum going. By the way, when we talk about job creation, one thing I don't believe is necessary or helpful is a Right-to-Work law.
The essential ingredients for new investment are financial incentives ...a skilled workforce, ...and available property.
Wayne County is home to the state's most unionized workforce, and as I said, we are driving a substantial portion of the growth and new jobs in Michigan.
We have already turned away another bad idea that stood in the way of economic progress.
I was very pleased when the Secretary of State reversed her decision to deny driver's licenses and identification cards to immigrant youths.
Young people who can't drive themselves to school or to work are a drag on the economy.
Along with many other individuals and organizations, I felt it was unacceptable to marginalize young immigrants who have been authorized to live and work in the United States by the Federal government.
I am glad that roadblock to progress is out of the way.
Adonis Flores, Sergio Martinez and Raquel Garcia Anderson are with us today.
Can you three please stand up?
Remember these young faces... I'm sure they'll go very far some day.
Now, with a driver's license, these three young people can finally continue on their path to a bright and happy future.
Let's talk about the Wayne County investment and jobs story.
The Detroit Region Aerotropolis has been a major success in luring investment to the area.
The Aerotropolis, located between Willow Run Airport and Detroit Metro, and running along
I-275 and I-94, provides companies with a comprehensive, integrated offering of facilities, amenities and services to conduct business on a global scale.
GE Aviation has built a global center of excellence for developing composites for its jet engines in the Aerotropolis.
Inergy, one of the world leaders in the manufacturing of plastic gas tanks, is investing
$60 million dollars there to build a 300-thousand-square- foot manufacturing plant that will employ 240 workers in Huron Township.
Another company making use of the advantages of Aerotropolis is BROSE North America, which is investing $60 million dollars in Huron Township to create more than 450 jobs over the next five years.
Investments like these are happening all across Wayne County.
In Van Buren Township, Constellium Automotive is making a $21 million dollar investment to make aluminum parts, and they have committed to providing 75 new jobs to area residents by 2015.
In Romulus, Lee Steel broke ground on the construction of a new 250-thousand square foot facility, which is scheduled to open this year - an investment of $26 million dollars.
Watson Engineering a component manufacturer, is investing $8.1 million dollars in Taylor to support expansion into a facility on vacant property.
This project will lead to the creation of 80 new jobs.
While all of these investments make me optimistic about the future of our county, one is extremely close to my heart: the expansion and renovation of Cobo Hall.
I took the lead in pursuing this project in the region and in Lansing.
I fought hard for it, and now this much-needed $299 million dollar overhaul is a reality, and is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
It features a gorgeous new glass atrium, which many of you may have seen at the North American International Auto Show.
Retaining that show, and all of the economic benefits and civic pride it brings to our region, was a major driver for the expansion.
I cannot wait to see the final product when it is finished next year.
Along with the improvements to Cobo Hall, if you went to the auto show this year you could see how strongly the auto industry is rebounding.
That is great news for this region.
Just ahead of the show, Ford Motor Company announced that it is investing $773 million dollars in new equipment and expansion in Southeast Michigan, creating 2,350 new jobs.
Ford is the biggest employer in Wayne County, and most of those new jobs are coming to us.
And we are very excited about that.
As my colleagues in the region know, another major source of investment and jobs in the region, is the health care industry.
More than half of the health-care related businesses in Michigan are located here in Wayne County, and they have an overall economic impact of $9.5 billion dollars annually.
Since 2008, the health-care industry has invested nearly $1 billion dollars in Wayne County.
The most recent investments include the University of Michigan Health System's construction of a health center in Northville Township.
This $39 million-dollar investment will create 140 jobs, as well as provide residents with world-class healthcare.
And Wayne State University, which has the Country's largest single campus medical school,has announced it will invest $90 million-dollars in a new biomedical research facility.
The healthcare industry has deep roots in the Detroit area, and a promising future.
I think it's time for us to take full advantage of the incredible resources we have here.
Tonight I am announcing a new initiative I believe will help us do that.
I have asked the leaders of our Health and Economic Development departments to meet withthe CEOs of our major hospitals to explore new ways of leveraging our medical expertise so that we can attract patients from around the world.
Our vision is to develop and promote Wayne County as a medical center of excellence, and build a thriving "medical tourism" industry here and in the region.
As we did with the Aerotropolis, if we think globally and act regionally, we can make this vision a reality.
Looking Ahead: A Call to Action
As I said at the start of my remarks, 2012 was a year of change and a year of progress in Wayne County.
I am proud of everything we've accomplished, and of the team that made it happen.
We had a lot of new people join us in the last year, but they hit the ground running and got things done.
As proud as I am of what we've accomplished, I know we have a lot more to do.
We are still recovering from a devastating recession, and we have a long way to go to fix our finances, grow our economy, and get everyone who wants a job back to work.
One of the things that makes me optimistic about our future is the lesson learned from some of our biggest successes - regional cooperation works.
Cobo Hall, the Aerotropolis,... regional transportation… all of these things moved forward because the stakeholders got together and found common ground to make them happen.
This evening I've explained many of the things we are doing in Wayne County to get our fiscal house in order.
Our efforts are still hampered by Proposal A and Headlee, legislation that was designed to deal with a completely different reality - booming growth and skyrocketing home prices.
As I said earlier, this is a problem that impacts not only Wayne County, but local governments throughout the state.
It's a broken model.
Tonight I would like to call on government leadership at every level in our state to begin a comprehensive and collaborative effort to reform our municipal finance system… because there has to be a better way.
We need to address the structural deficiencies that are built into the way we fund local government.
This isn't just a Detroit problem...or a Wayne County problem.
Local governments are struggling all over the State of Michigan...despite efforts to streamline, to be more efficient and paring down services.
Our current system is based on property tax revenue that was radically reduced, virtually overnight.
Our revenue disappeared, but our obligations did not, including numerous unfunded mandates from the state.
We have a choice to make:
We can work together to reform the way we fund local government services, and put our finances on a solid and sustainable foundation.
Or we can wait a decade for property values and those tax revenues to slowly rise again -and keep cutting essential services, keep lowering the quality of life for our citizens, and hope things get better some day.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait that long… let's get this done.
I have been a public servant for more than 30 years.
I became a public servant because I wanted to help make our community a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
That passion still drives me today.
After all that time, I am still excited to come to work every day to help move Wayne County forward.
It's especially exciting now, when major projects we've been working on are coming together… when the regional cooperation we once dreamed of is becoming a reality and making a difference… when the county that was hit hardest by the downturn is roaring back to life with new jobs, investment, and growth.
We have completed a year of change and progress.
As we move into the new year, we are moving forward together, and looking forward to a better, brighter future.
I am honored and humbled to have the privilege of serving our community, and excited to be involved in the progress we are making.
At the beginning of my remarks I talked about the memorial we are building in Plymouth Township.
It will honor police, fire and EMS first-responders from our county's 43 communities who have given their lives in the line of duty.
I would like to conclude by recognizing all of the brave men and women in uniform.
Would all of the first-responders here tonight please join me at the front of the stage.
If you think you've had a tough year or a bad week, think about what these men and woman do every day on our behalf.
They put their lives on the line to protect the people of Wayne County.
On behalf of all of us, I want to thank you for everything you do.
To everyone here tonight, and to all of you listening and watching, thank you for your interest in Wayne County.
May God Bless You and May God Bless Wayne County.