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Topic: will our parks become abandoned again?

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El Supremo

Fewer cops, abandoned parks, and why more cities will crumble unless Michigan changes
When cities lose 2,300 police officers, its time for Michigan to look in the mirror.
Post Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:00 am 
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El Supremo

Public Sector
Fewer cops, abandoned parks, and why more cities will crumble unless Michigan changes

Posted on: May 12, 2016 Written by: Ron French, Mike Wilkinson Topic: Public Sector

Tags: Flint syndrome:

Thats like laying off every Michigan State Police trooper. Twice.

Ann Arbor lost 23 percent of its police force; Saginaw, 41 percent; Troy, 48 percent.

And it only happened here. No other Midwestern state witnessed anything close to the massive police layoffs that occurred in Michigan between 2005 and 2014.

The distinction isnt about crime rates but the arcane issue of municipal finance. Simply put, Michigan funds its cities differently than most states. As a result, the old industrial city of Flint is in notably worse financial shape than the old industrial city of Toledo, just across the state line.

The disappearance of one in five city police officers may be the most noticeable impact of Michigans growing municipal finance crisis, but its far from the only one. In some cities, dwindling revenues have meant abandoned parks or cuts to youth programs. Other communities have deferred maintenance on streets and buildings, or are holding fundraisers to buy basic fire equipment.

And then theres Flint, where high levels of lead in the drinking water potentially caused life-long neurological damage to thousands of children. The series of bad decisions that led to the drinking water crisis in that cash-starved city emerged from the same milieu of state-level choices cracking the budgets of cities across Michigan.

Database: Big drop in cops 2005-2014
Cities, villages and townships across Michigan were forced to cut police officers as lower taxes -- from dwindling property taxes and state revenue sharing -- forced many to solve budget woes by going after personnel costs. With police typically the biggest department and officer pay the biggest expense, many were cut. It's left many Michigan communities with far fewer officers per capita than cities in the Midwest and the country, a byproduct of a municipal finance system that some say is broken. Statistics below are from 2005 and 2014, the latest year for which full data was available. Note: Cities that did not report data to the FBI in both 2005 and 2014 are not included.

Show entries
Show entries
City 2014 Pop. Gain/Loss since 2005 2014 Officers Gain/Loss since 2005 Percent
change Officers
per 1,000 residents
Adrian 20,789 -5.5% 27 -6 -18.2% 1.30
Allegan 5,059 1.9% 9 -1 -10.0% 1.78
Allen Park 27,549 -3.4% 35 -13 -27.1% 1.27
Alma 9,260 -0.6% 15 2 15.4% 1.62
Almont 2,668 -7.4% 6 -3 -33.3% 2.25
Alpena 10,253 -6.3% 17 -1 -5.6% 1.66
Ann Arbor 117,768 3.6% 117 -35 -23.0% 0.99
Argentine Township 6,695 -6.0% 5 -2 -28.6% 0.75
Armada 1,745 6.5% 2 1 100.0% 1.15
Auburn Hills 21,859 5.3% 51 -5 -8.9% 2.33
Showing 1 to 10 of 10 entriesPrevious1Next
Showing 1 to 10 of 326 entriesPrevious1234533Next
Source: The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. Local agencies report personnel statistics annually to the federal agency.

Flint, with its tragic decision to save money by switching its water source without properly safeguarding the new water supply, is only the most grievous example. But it is hardly alone among Michigan cities and towns that are facing seismic decisions about how to provide basic services to residents in the face of grim revenue numbers.

Call it the Flint Syndrome, where systemic, long-term disinvestment has imperiled the safety and frayed the quality of life for residents of many Michigan cities.

And the grim choices cities must make are likely going to get worse, unless the state makes fundamental changes to the way cities are funded, say municipal finance experts.

Cities are bound and gagged financially by the state, said Mitch Bean, former long-time director of the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency. And theres no way out.

States role in starving cities
Josh Sapotichne, assistant professor of political science at Michigan State University, looked at a map showing the locations of financially distressed cities in the U.S., and noticed something odd. Most distressed cities were clustered in only a handful of states.

Michigan is one of only three states with a double-digit number of cities designated as financially distressed since 2000, according to data he shared with Bridge. Michigan has had 11 designations (Flint and Hamtramck, twice); Ohio, 13, and Pennsylvania, 14. California cities have had their own financial struggles, with several declaring bankruptcy, but the state has no state program to take over the books of cash-strapped municipalities.

Its not like Michigan is the only state in the nation with cities that are dealing with the consequences of post-industrialism, Sapotichne said. So why is it happening here and why hasnt it happened elsewhere?

The surprising answer, according to a report by Sapotchine and a group of MSU researchers: most cash-starved cities werent broke because of something theyd done; they were broke because of things their state had done.

Michigan incubates municipal financial distress, Sapotichne told Bridge. Theres a reason why cities in North Carolina or Tennessee are not experiencing the same kinds of financial pressures. Even an all-star team of city officials and managers could not design a strategy to manage their way through the constraints Michigan's policies place on a Flint, an Ecorse, or a Benton Harbor.

Those restraints, the report suggests, are an accumulation of decisions by legislators and the public that date back 40 years. Those decisions include:

Headlee Amendment
Thinning blue line
In the last decade, the number of police officers protecting Michigan cities has plummeted as the state fell further behind the nation and neighboring states. For example, if a city like Livonia had the Midwest rate, it'd have 44 more officers than the 117 it had in 2014.

Officer per 1,000 residents (2014) Change, 2005-2014
City size Nation Midwest Michigan Nation Midwest Michigan
over 250,000 people* 2.6 3 3.4 -7.1% -9.1% -8.3%
100,000 to 250,000 1.7 1.7 1.3 -10.5% -10.5% -23.5%
50,000 to 100,000 1.6 1.5 1.2 -5.9% -6.3% -20.0%
25,000 to 50,000 1.7 1.5 1.2 -5.6% -6.3% -14.3%
10,000 to 25,000 1.8 1.7 1.5 -5.3% -5.6% -11.8%
under 10,000 3.7 2.8 1.6 12.1% 7.7% -11.1%
*Note: For Michigan, Detroit is the only city over 250,000 people.
Source: The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports. Local agencies report personnel statistics annually to the federal agency.

In 1978, the Headlee Amendment limited increases in property tax revenue collected by cities to the rate of inflation. So during years when property assessments increased more than inflation, millage rates were reduced so total property tax revenue matched the inflation rate. But cities could bump their millage rates back up in years when property tax increases were going to be below the inflation rate. The result: cities lost a lot of revenue in years when property values were skyrocketing, but could make up only some of that loss in other years.

Proposal A
In 1994, voters approved Prop A, which put a cap on property assessment increases of 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever was less. In simplest terms, property tax revenues, the bread-and-butter of city budgets, could go down quickly and steeply when property values spiraled, as they did during the Great Recession, but could never go up quickly.

Farmington Hills, for example, lost so much property value during the Great Recession that, given Prop As limits on increases, it will take until 2038 just to get back to pre-recession assessment levels without taking inflation into account, according to calculations by Robert Kleine, former Michigan treasurer.

Prop A also nixed the provision in Headlee that allowed cities to roll up their millage rates when the rise in taxable value was less than inflation; that revision made it easy for cities to lose money, but impossible to gain it back. Combined with Headlee, Michigan devised the second-tightest local taxation limits in the nation, ahead of only Colorado.

Revenue sharing
All of which left Michigan cities more reliant on revenue sharing, which is a share of sales tax collected by the state and distributed to cities, villages and townships. The state is required by the state constitution to distribute 15 percent of sales tax revenue to these local governments; a 1998 law passed by the Legislature sets the distribution of another 21.3 percent of the first 4 percent of sales tax revenue to cities. But while setting that distribution level, the law doesnt require the appropriation. So every year, the legislature decides whether that money actually goes to cities, or is used for other things in the state budget. The Legislature and a series of Republican and Democratic governors have routinely kept some of that 21.3 percent for other uses. By 2015, about $5.5 billion in revenue sharing had been diverted from the cities and towns that were supposed to benefit from that money (another estimated $2 billion has been kept from counties).

With full revenue sharing since 2002, Grand Rapids would have $82 million more in its coffers; Lansing, $63 million; Flint, $62 million.

Cities are on the bottom of the food chain, Sapotichne said. If the state needs to balance a budget, they can not make good on these commitments on revenue sharing made in the 90s.

You can look up how much your community has lost in revenue sharing here.

For most cities, about 75 percent of revenue comes from property taxes and revenue sharing, said Anthony Minghine of the Michigan Municipal League, which advocates for Michigan cities. One is horribly restrained and the other is cut drastically. So cities are never getting ahead of the game.

Gideon DAssandro, spokesperson for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, suggested to Bridge in November that Michigan cities have no one to blame but themselves for their financial mess.

Legacy costs - expensive retiree health care and pensions - is hurting cities, DAssandro said. Sapotichnes report also cites legacy costs as a contributing factor in city budget problems. There do appear to be some bad deals out there, DAssandro said.

Today: Flint draws the headlines, but cities across Michigan are facing dire, perhaps dangerous choices in part because of state budget policies.

Fewer cops, abandoned parks, and why more cities will crumble unless Michigan changes its ways
Searchable Database: How many cops has YOUR town lost?
WAYNE: Need fire hoses? Pass the hat
BATTLE CREEK: A starving Cereal City
SAGINAW: Parks and wreck
NEXT WEEK Part Two: What Michigan can learn from budget policies in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The impact of fiscal limitations can be seen in police departments in cities across the state.

Michigans 22 largest communities and 48 of the top 50 had fewer police officers per capita in 2014 than a decade earlier. (St. Clair Shores and Muskegon had slightly more police per capita.)

Michigan cities fell even farther behind the nation and the Midwest. On average, Michigan cities had 17 percent fewer cops than their Midwestern neighbors in 2005; by 2014, Michigan cities had 24 percent fewer police officers (1.6 police per 1,000 Michigan city residents, compared to 2.1 across the Midwest).

While Michigan has the fewest city police officers, its cities have the highest rate of violent crime and motor vehicle theft in the Midwest. Minnesota added officers in the decade, despite having the lowest violent crime rate in the Midwest.

Flint, with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation,was forced to cut its police force from 244 in 2005 to 102 a decade later. By comparison, fellow rust belt city Toledo has more than twice the number of cops per capita, despite a lower violent crime rate than of Flint.

In Hazel Park, the police force has been trimmed from 40 to 33 in recent years. Theres a minimum number of human bodies you need to perform services, said City Manager Edward Klobucher. Nobody wants to relocate to a community that cant protect itself.

The impact on public safety is not immediately clear. Theres no crime data to suggest the decline in police officers in Michigan cities has made cities less safe. Crime rates in Michigan have dropped over the past 20 years, as they have nationally.

But police do more than investigate murder, rape, assault, car thefts and burglaries. They are there when there's a car accident, or when a woman is menaced by her spouse or partner (domestic violence is a crime but not in federal crime statistics). They do crowd control and catch speeders. They line the street when there's a parade and stroll the stands at Friday night football games.

And in places like Wayne, near Detroit, where the force has shrunk from 42 to 23 officers over the past decade, they routinely work 12-hour shifts to keep residents safe. Every night I go to bed and I pray that they come home okay, Wayne Mayor Susan Rowe told Bridge of her citys overworked patrol officers. I fear for their safety.

The impact of fewer officers may show up in other ways.

In Bay City, for example, drunk driving arrests have declined with the number of police officers.

With less people less gets done, Bay City Public Safety Director Michael Cecchini told MLive in 2013.

In Ann Arbor, where the police force shrank 23 percent, the decline has meant the elimination of the drug education DARE program in schools and dedicated foot patrols on the citys main thoroughfares.

Because the cuts occurred over more than a decade, there has been little public notice that a police force that once stood at 198 is down to 122, with officers working 12-hour shifts, said Ann Arbor Police Chief Jim Baird.

I think the public has been shielded (from the cuts), Baird said. Police are always going to provide the core services. Its the other stuff that falls by the wayside.

Other public-safety funding cuts are harder to hide. In Battle Creek, the police station smells of sewage, and office supplies are stored on shelves in the womens bathroom.

Back in the city of Wayne, community members held a fundraiser at a bowling alley to raise funds for new fire hoses.

Wayne has a stable population, middle-class housing stock and a large, operating industrial complex, and its still almost bankrupt, said Minghine of the Michigan Municipal League. Thats the world we live in.

Because the financial squeeze on local governments happened gradually, deferred maintenance on sewer systems, old playground equipment and outdated public safety vehicles arent noticed by the public until theres a problem. MSUs Sapotichne compared it to a man eating bacon cheeseburgers every day. Outwardly, his health may seem fine, right up to the day he has a heart attack. Were feeling the cumulative effect of 40 years of choices, Sapotichne said. This structural financial gap is toxic to cities.

Cities are going to make mistakes, because theyre being squeezed, Sapotichne said. And the consequences of those mistakes are exacerbated because of this financial structure.

Those mistakes could mean bankruptcy.

In Flints case, it meant poisoned water.

If all these cities are struggling, it tells you theres something wrong with the model, Minghine said. We lose sight of how everyone is dancing on the edge of the cliff.

Last edited by untanglingwebs on Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:08 am; edited 1 time in total
Post Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:03 am 
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El Supremo

City 2014 Pop. Gain/Loss since 2005 2014 Officers Gain/Loss since 2005 Percent
change Officers
per 1,000 residents
Essexville 3,439 -5.3% 8 0 0.0% 2.33
Evart 1,887 8.0% 3 0 0.0% 1.59
Farmington 10,603 4.4% 20 -2 -9.1% 1.89
Farmington Hills 81,682 1.0% 104 -9 -8.0% 1.27
Fenton 11,533 -3.3% 14 -2 -12.5% 1.21
Ferndale 20,346 -6.2% 37 -10 -21.3% 1.82
Flint 99,166 -17.2% 102 -142 -58.2% 1.03
Flint Township 30,898 -7.2% 32 -5 -13.5% 1.04
Flushing 8,158 -0.4% 10 -3 -23.1% 1.23
Flushing Township 10,324 -1.6% 6 -4 -40.0% 0.58
Post Mon Mar 19, 2018 9:06 am 
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El Supremo

In a few months we will be approaching the twenty year anniversary of the infamous Bonner Park attack on three Oakland County white teens by a group of black males. The attack left one 14 year old male dead, a 15 year old male beaten and shot in the head, and a 15 year old shot in the face after being sexually assaulted. Six black males were arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and several counts of physical and sexual abuse. They were facing charges of life without parole.

This tragic episode threw Flint into the national headlight over black on white crime while ignoring the incidence of black youth being murdered in our urban streets. A great deal was written about the sad condition of Flint Parks and giving Flint another black eye. Family of the white youth wanted to come to Flint and shoot it up, and flatten it! The families of the black youth felt their children were being railroaded and should not have to spend the rest of their lives in prison. They expressed the view that the three Oakland County youths were not blameless or they would not have been in Flint.
Post Tue Mar 20, 2018 9:21 am 
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El Supremo

On June 18,1997, the three Highland Township youth decided to hop a train. It seems that every weekend up to three dozen local kids took the trains for short rides. The ride started when the train stopped for a coffee break. When the train reached Holly and slowed down they hopped off.

MIchael Carter (14) had been in juvenile detention, allegedly for taking his mother's boyfriends truck. He escaped that day to spend time with his girlfriend Nicole (15) and his two friends.Dustin Kaiser (15) also caught the train, but a friend tripped and missed it.

After wandering around they met a group that promised to take them to a shortcut to a McDonalds and a phone. Instead they took the trio to a pavillion in the park where the assaults took place. MIchael was shot point blank in the head with a 22 cal. gun. Dustin was beaten and shot in the head with the same 22. After being forced to give oral sex to the six.males, they attempted to shoot her in the face with a sawed off shotgun, but the weapon misfired. She was then shot in the face with the 22. She played dead until they left.
Post Tue Mar 20, 2018 10:27 am 
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El Supremo

She roused Dustin, who gave her his tee shirt and convinced her to leave Michael's body. They struggled to the road where some neighbors rescued them.
Despite surgeries at Hurley, the bullet remains in Dustin's head and if it moved he could duffer blindness or irreversible brain damage.

The officer that solved the case, Flint Police Sgt. Thomas Korabik, got an anonymous tip that named Christopher Darling as being a part of the attack. Arrested the next day,Darling implicated himself and 5 others. The others were arrested in a 36 hour police sweep. There were two sets of brothers arrested: Anthony Hollis (23), Adrian Hollis (20), Terrance Reyes (1Cool, Tyrone Reyes (16) and Shannon Gould (16).

At trial,the two Hollis Brothers, Gould and Darling all pled guilty and promised to testify against the Reyes brothers to have some charges dropped. The Reyes brothers were convicted.

Post Tue Mar 20, 2018 10:48 am 
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El Supremo

Map of Play, an online park finder , judged the (Oak Knoll) Ophelia Bonner Park to be "highly unsafe because of how secluded parts are". The 1 acre park is in the area of North and Ridgeway.

Time magazine wrote a 4 piece story and other national newspapers carried headline stories. They focused on the lack of maintenance in the park, the waist high weeds and the trash in the parking lot.. They cited dense woods unlit basketball courts and baseball diamonds. Time even took a photo of dingy mattresses and old dressers in the main entrance of the park photo.

Residents stated their children were not allowed to play up at the park at night. Rev. Carlton Brantley of Foss Avenue Baptist Church was quoted in Time that he believed there may have been a racial dimension and he warned of the violent tendencies of local youth. "They don't have a conscience-they'll step on someone like I step on this blade of grass here."
Post Tue Mar 20, 2018 11:07 am 
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El Supremo

In 2010 the University of Michigan-Flint evaluated the 62 parks in the City of Flint They rated 38 of these parks to be poor or mediocre. They cited no improvement to Bonner Park as it was filled with trash, dead trees and low visibility. Just as in other parks, there was evidence of vandalism, drug activity and sex paraphernalia.

Megan Hunter was the chief Planner in 2013. She stated that of he 95 parks workers in 2002 the city was down to 6 in 2013. Also,due to the population loss the park millage only produced about $465,000 during the previous year.
Post Tue Mar 20, 2018 11:19 am 
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El Supremo

The Time magazine article described the dismay of then Mayor Woodrow Stanley. The national attention of this one incident threatened to undo any efforts he had made to ensure public safety. Unfortunately, few of his concerns made the media but his comment "I ain't their daddy!' went viral.

A year after the attack, a hastily planned Youth Day for Bonner Park was heavily criticized. In a Flint Journal newly hired Park's and Recreation Director Carl Hamilton said the event could"help take a black eye off our parks." Ron Fonger quoted hamilton as saying "it's not a big party (where) the mayor decided to dance on the graves of these kids....."I think (people) have reacted because of a lack of information."

The event hoped to attract 5,000 youth dor activities and sports clinics. Hamilton wanted the event to showcase the "concept of safe and abundant recreational and leisure activities" in the city and to rub out "the negative exposure" The city received after the murder and shooings.
Post Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:44 am 
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El Supremo

Council passed the resolution for the event. Hamilton planned to invite national news organizations that had rushed to Flint to cover the shootings the previous year.

Time magazine author Rod Stodghill, who wrote "A Train Hop to Tragedy" had compared the incident to "a small town version of the O.J. Simpson case." He said he was interested in seeing what changes had transpired in a year.

Meanwhile, the local neighborhood had organized a crime watch and a park cleanup. Potential visitors to the event were excited until they learned of the location. Fear of gang activity and violence in the area was cited as reluctance to attend.
Post Wed Mar 21, 2018 7:56 am 
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