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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

April 2009 Nautical City Newsletter

Here is the current Rogers City Newsletter:


Simply the Best: ACORN

Sponsored By
Serving you at four locations:

Rogers City
181 E. Erie Street

20774 State Street

6987 Turtle Street

Grand Lake
18132 Lake Esua Highway

See Wild Columbine, Dwarf Lake Iris, and Yellow Lady's Slipper!
Get Outdoors with the Entire Family!
Interpretive Nature Walk at
Thompson’s Harbor State Park
Thursday, June 18, 2009
10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Thompson’s Harbor State Park is located approximately 13 miles south of Rogers City and is about 6,000 acres with nearly 7 miles of Lake Huron shoreline. It is essentially
a pristine natural preserve abundant with wildlife, rare flora, and fauna.
The Nature Conservancy of Michigan will conduct the interpretive nature walk that will
guide visitors along this scenic preserve viewing rare species of native plants, some threatened
species, and indigenous wildlife. Some of the current issues facing this unique
ecosystem and threatened species of habitat will be addressed on the tour.
Call 989-734-2477 for reservations
Tour space limited.
Presque Isle District
Library Series;
A.C.O.R.N stands for
Conservation &
Recreation in

“Nature is painting us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we
have the eyes to see them.”
John Ruskin

Live, Local Theater Hit

They say, "You can't keep 'em down on the farm, once they've seen the lights of Broadway." However, Rogers City Theater can shine bright lights too!

The current offering of Hello Dolly! is just a joy. The locals do a wondeful job, including some terrific vocals, great dancing, and very clever set design.

If you have any interest in a live show, come on out to the Rogers City Theater for one of the final showings: 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday, April 3 and 4, 2009 and, 2:00 pm, April 5, 2009 for a Sunday Matinee.

You simply can't have a better time!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wolverine Power Plant

Here is a photo from Louisiana showing the new circulating fluidized bed (CFB) power plant being built there. It is very similar to the power plant Wolverine proposes for Rogers Township. For more information about this CFB technology, check out the February 2009 Power Engineering magazine or www.power-eng.com. The CFB technology holds the promise of "clean coal."
People have asked me, "what is the status of this project?" The Governor asked for some additional review; however, there is debate about what that might mean. As I understand it, the
additional review process is through the DEQ and very similar to an Integrated Resource Plan that the regulated utilities complete through the Public Service Commission process. More information is available on-line at DEQ's web site: www.michigan.gov/deq
Wolverine Power Cooperative representatives have assured me that they are working closely with DEQ staff members to meet or exceed all DEQ requirements.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What is the City Manager Thinking?

Well, that asumes that he is thinking.... And here is what I'm thinking about right now; I just read the articles: (shown below) by James H. Svara and Karen Thoreson.

Six Characteristics of Innovative Local Government

In the article “Learning from Award-Winning Innovations in Local Government,” soon to be published in ICMA’s 2009 edition of The Municipal Year Book, we have looked for important examples of innovations recognized in local governments. Drawn from winners and finalists in awards programs of ICMA and the Alliance for Innovation and from case studies selected for presentation at the Alliance annual Transforming Local Government conference, the 28 exemplary examples reflect a sampling of new approaches being undertaken by local governments from the hundreds of submissions for these programs.

They reflect efforts to strengthen communities, remake the locality (Mark's note: "sense of place"), promote health and safety, advance sustainability, develop new forms of E-Gov, and improve organizational design and process. The cases illustrate the new ideas and breakthrough approaches as well as leading examples of transplanting, adapting, and recombining ideas that other jurisdictions have used in order to address a pressing local need or pursue an opportunity in a creative way.

We also examine the shared elements across the organizations that differ in size, region, and governmental type. The organizations manifested varying levels of the following six characteristics:

Leadership – Individuals and groups took the lead in initiating change at all levels of the organization, from elected officials and top administrators to mid-level and front-line staff. The organizational culture supports change, and councils and managers provided critical support even if they were not the initiators.

Creativity – Regular questioning of the status quo occurs in innovative organizations. There is encouragement to seek new ideas, an acceptance of risks, and willingness to adapt and change how the organization operates.

Internal Collaboration- Innovative organizations rarely operate in departmental silos. Cross functional teams are the norm and are staffed by personnel from numerous disciplines and levels of the organization.

External Partnerships – The connections do not stop at the organizational boundaries. Partnerships were formed with other governments, nonprofits, and businesses. Innovative organizations go beyond the quid pro quo arrangements with other groups to sharing of goals and values.

Community Connections – The local governments studied demonstrated a high level of engagement with their citizens and visa versa. Citizens may initiate the change, act as partners in creating new approaches, and demonstrate willingness to accept new approaches.

Results Focused –Organizations that value innovation are looking for results. They evaluate the impact of change with real metrics, recognizing costs, benefits and beneficiaries.

Innovation is neither a fluke nor a science. It takes sustained effort and focus to develop, but it also requires an openness to new ideas, to the unexpected, and previously unrecognized opportunities. If leaders promote the six elements outlined above in their organizations, the likelihood of creating a successful innovation organization is greatly improved.

Dr. James H. Svara is on the board of directors for The Alliance for Innovation, and he is professor in the School of Public Affairs and director of the Center for Urban Innovation, at Arizona State University. Comments can be sent to james.svara@asu.edu.
Karen Thoreson is the Chief Operating Officer of the Alliance for Innovation and deputy director of the Center for Urban Innovation, at Arizona State University. Questions about the award programs of the Alliance for Innovation can be sent to kthoreson@transformgov.org.

Some of this information seems very theoretical to me, but I agree with what it says.

Rogers City needs to do the things it talks about to survive during this economic crisis. We need to work together both in and outside of government. We need to connect with people in our community. We must be results oriented, to get the job of local government done at low cost and to the best of our ability.

I try to balance day-to-day practicality with a thoughtful consideration for the theories of experts, pundits, and local citizens alike. Come talk to me about your City government.... What are we doing right, wrong, or not at all?

I want to hear from each of you.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Capitol Conference, Lansing

Gary Nowak, Darrin Darga, and I attend the Michigan Municipal League (MML) Capitol Conference on March 3 and 4, 2009. This conference is one way your elected and appointed officials work for the City of Rogers City to influence the laws and policies of the State of Michigan and learn best practices for government. In addition to conferences, your elected officials regularly communicate with officials in both Lansing and Washington D.C. via phone, email, and snail mail. While it is a long trip to Lansing, sometimes it is important to talk face to face. While Gary, Darrin, and I were in Lansing we meet with State Senator Jason Allen, Representative Kevin Elsenhiemer, and Representative Andy Neumann. We talked with all them about the importance of preserving Michigan State University (MSU) Extension funding in Presque Isle County, along with other local issue.

We also attened public forums and educational sessions with various other leaders as shown below:

"Four vs. One" was a panel discussion with Reps. Melton and Proos and Sens. Whitmer and Richardville, moderated by Media Personality Tim Scubick. We learned where each legislator stood on a several issues, and watched their interaction. Tim’s questions were "straightforward" and directed at topics like cable and tax reform legislation. The discussion often involved “process” and “communication.” They all stated that hearing from local officials is a critical factor when considering specific legislation and overall public policy.
(Note: this paragraph was adapted from Andrea Messinger, MML Legislative & Communications Coordinator. Thanks Andrea.)

"Vibrant Communities in the 21st Century" was a session featuring three cities in Michigan that seek to be more vibrant. They are seeking to be places where people want to "live, work, and play." Boyne City presented their “Creating Entrepreneurial Communities” program. The Rogers City also participates in this program; however, Boyne has taken the program further than perhaps any other community in Michigan. Their goal was to keep the businesses they have and to create an environment conducive to new small business start-ups. Statistics show that 60-80 percent of employees in the U.S. work for a small business. Boyne City realized that it was more effective to foster entrepreneurialism than to try and hook that “one big” business. They meet with over 100 business owners and asking them what their needs were. They had never been asked this before. The City did an inventory of the business community, and brought together talent from different groups to form a business resource center for entrepreneurs, a sort of “one stop resource.” They are fostering, and nurturing small business in Boyne City.

Like Rogers City, Owosso was interested in creating a vibrant communities for the 21st century. This city of about 15,000 admitted they had a problem, went out on a limb, and reallocated resources and restructured government. They garnered over 5 million in grants, including the Vibrant Small cities Initiative (VSCI) of which Rogers City is a part. They have been working to put together private money (the goal is $2 in private dollars for every $1 of public money). Like Rogers City, they gathered grant funds first, then developed their plan to use the funds. This process takes a long time. Their plan is to focus on historic preservation, arts and culture, a walkable community, and putting together partnerships. They are rebuilding their burned-down theatre, expanding their art center, building trails throughout the city, and are putting in a new streetscape. Phase two of the plan will be to focus on developing downtown housing.

The third municipal example in this presentation was the city of Grand Rapids. They created a new master plan based on the tenets of smart growth. In addition, they rewrote their zoning ordinance, and consequently, were able to create the really great neighborhoods that their residents desired. Rogers City is also working on a new Zoning Ordinance. Grand Rapids' primary concerns was for walkable and accessible neighborhoods, distinctive and attractive developments, and to preserve farmland, open space, natural beauty, and critical environmental areas. They sought resident input, and then followed it. They changed 40 percent of the land in the city from industrial to mixed use. They were amazed by the changes they could make in appearances by making changes to the zoning ordinance. Their residents wanted great neighborhoods, and the city created them by instituting mixed density and a variety of housing styles. They also cherish green infrastructure, which is the core of a good quality of life. In addition to smart growth, the city is focused on Green Grand Rapids and Crime Prevention by Environmental Design.
(Note: this section was adapted from Kim Cekola, MML Research Associate/Publications Editor)

"Transportation and Infrastructure–The View from Capitol Hill:" Officials discussed what local governments must do in order to receive federal funding for transportation projects, as well as efforts that are underway to change our national transportation policy. Foremost on everyone’s minds was the federal stimulus package that was recently passed. Unfortunately, it was confirmed that none of the stimulus funding for roads will be available for small cities like Rogers City due to federal rules in the Stimulus bill. Apparently, only roads that are "federal aide eligible" will receive this road funding. Except for US-23, BR-23, and M-68, none of our major or local streets in Rogers City are "federal aide eligible." This news is a big disappointment; however, Rogers City may get some funding for road repair through our water and sewer projects, which apparently are eligible for funding via the US Department of Agriculture-Rural Development (USDA-RD).

It was reported that Department of Transportation (DOT) officials are claiming that transportation projects are too complicated for local governments to handle and that all money and decision making should therefore flow through the DOT. Apparently, this thinking prevailed on the Congress during the passage of the Federal Stimulus bill. The National League of Cities (NLC) is attempting to change this mindset, but local officials must make their voices heard, if we ever hope to obtain federal dollars for local road repair.

Their was a lot of discussionm about reforming national transportation legislation so that transportation policy reflects the needs of today and not the needs that existed in the 1950s and 1960s when most of the existing policy was crafted. The focus is not just on short-term fixes, but on long-term development that will ensure energy security, economic growth, affordability, and efficient transportation choices for all. One subject discussed was the "gas tax" which is falling short of meeting the needs of the highway system. Also, projects to develop high-speed, inter-city rail systems connecting 50 metropolitan areas may soon be underway. It is anticipated these rail projects will be support by the Obama administration because $8 billion was added to the federal stimulus package for high-speed rail development. Michigan may obtain some of this funding.

Speakers throughout the transportation session repeated how important it is for local officials to stay involved, despite the disappointment of not getting funding for local roads. Local officials must emphasize that local governments can complete transportation projects more quickly and better than state DOTs. They know the needs of their residents and are therefore the best ones to coordinate transportation and land use processes. Local governments will then be able to obtain the funding they need to develop sustainable, affordable transportation that meet needs of the 21st century. (Note: adapted from Tom Wolff, MML, Claims Manager, Risk Management Services)

"Renew Your Energy Expertise:" A new Executive Order issued by the governor solidified our state’s commitment to renewable energy. The order went into effect the first of January, and creates a Bureau of Energy within the Department of Labor and Economic Growth. The governor’s goal is to decrease our state’s dependency on fossil fuels by 45 percent by the year 2020. In addition, the aim is to create jobs in the renewable energy field through these four components: 1) Advanced Energy Storage2) Wind3) Solar4) Energy Efficiency.
In the case of wind and solar, the state wants to both deploy the technology and capture the value chain. Michigan has many skilled manufacturing workers, so transferring these skills to manufacturing renewable energy products is a good way for our state to diversify its workforce.
In addition to the Bureau of Energy, the state has created a Wind Energy Zone Resource Board. This board has been charged with identifying the location of wind zones and studying wind conversion methodologies. Its focus will be on the viability of large wind farms, not stand alone wind turbines. The key to our state’s success is for local government and state government to do this together. Lots of grant money is coming down the pike—the money will originate with the federal government who will give it to the states who will then disperse it to locals. It will not go towards the Bureau of Energy’s general fund, but directly to municipalities to develop their own renewable energy programs. Money will be available under the new economic stimulus package, and for green issues specifically it will come through Energy Efficiency Community Block Grants. To ensure the success of municipalities in receiving and keeping the stimulus, the Bureau of Energy and the Michigan Municipal League have teamed up for what we call “The Green Challenge.” Visit http://www.mml.org/ for more information. after this session, Council member Darga stated that he would like to see Rogers city "as the premier sustainable city in Northeast Michigan."(Note: adapted from Kim Cekola, MML, Research Associate/Publications Editor)

"The Big Picture, State & Federal Affairs Update" a panel of MML lobbyists shared their insight. The lobbying team introduced MML's new Prosperity Agenda. After pinpointing what Michigan can learn from prosperous states (hint: it's all about sense of place), the Prosperity Agenda details "Prosperity Policies" and "Policy Actions" to create a better future for our state. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the Agenda is that it's not just a wish list, but a realistic action plan that shows exactly how communities, together with the Legislature, can create the Michigan of our dreams. A large dose of legislative information, enough to fix the worst political junky, came next. The panel presented the latest details about the federal Economic Recovery Act, mandatory collective bargaining, constitutional amendment on tax reform, the state transportation budget, green building incentives, cable legislation, and more.
(Note: adapted from Andrea Messinger, MML, Legislative & Communications Coordinator)

All-in-all, the Capitol Conference was a great way for your City to participate in the process of moving our community forward. The new MML moto is "Better Communities. Better Michigan." We must all work together to make that motto real.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Infrastructure Projects

The City has been working for over a year to obtain funds to make needed improvements to our water and sewer systems. Our staff, including financial consultants and our engineering firm, C2AE, have been planning and engineering to help accomplish this important work. If all goes well, the project construction will begin in 2010.

Today, the City Council took an important step in the process of making these improvements. They approved making an application to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) for the projects shown at the link below. Click on the link to see a map showing where all the projects are located. If you have any questions, please contact me.

Making all the improvements shown on this map may cause an increase in water and sewer rates of about 34%. This rate increase may be reduced depending on exactly what work is done and what other funding and financing become available. City Council, and staff members, such as Chuck Keiliszewski, Water Superintendent, Ray Hansen, Waste Water Treatment Plant Superintendent, and myself do not want to increase the rates; however, if we don't make the needed improvements to the water and sewer systems, failures in the system will cause service disruption and even greater expenses in the years ahead.

The proposed changes are throughout the City and effect the water quality and sewer disposal of everyone; therefore, the cost of the work will not be levied as a special assessment, but as a rate increase for all customers.

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Status of Wolverine Power Plant

Below is an exerpt from Richard Lamb on the status of the Wolverine Power Cooperative's "Clean Energy Venture:"

Hurdles yet to be cleared if Wolverine is to build in Rogers Township 2/27/2009 11:07:21 PM by Richard Lamb-- Advance Editor(Alexandria, Louisiana)-- It is good to make plans for the logistics ofthe construction phase of the $1 billion power plant planned for theCalcite quarry property in Rogers Township, but Craig Borr,Wolverine's executive vice president, cautioned that all plans areoff if Wolverine does not get its air quality permit from the MichiganDepartment of Environmental Quality. "Until and if we get an airpermit is really the key to all of this. There are really two keys. Weare hopeful the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) willtake action on the permit sometime this year. We don't know that andwe have no guarantee of that, but we are optimistic we are going to seesome action by the agency this year," Borr said while in Louisianawith 11 community leaders from Presque Isle County."And from our perspective we have to kick it into high gear withregards to our final financial evaluation in terms of sitting down withour members face-to-face and saying what it is going to cost to do thisand here are the economic impacts. Is this the right decision or not? "The Advance spoke to him between meetings with government, business,schools and law enforcement in the central Louisiana communitiessurrounding the nearly-completed power plant the community leaders werevisiting last week.

BORR SAID WOLVERINE is still in the development phase, not the decisionphase, which comes later. "We need to be very careful that we do notset the expectation levels of the community too high. Certainly gettingan air permit is job number one from our perspective right now." If that is obtained, Borr said, a detailed financial evaluation would bedone as part of the decision phase of the project. If it is the bestlong-term financial decision to meet the membership's power supplyneeds, the board will likely approve the construction, Borr said.

Thanks to Richard Lamb for covering this subject so well!