City sees the Phoenix bird


    The gloom of budget deficits and pending layoffs at City Hall is sobering but certainly not unexpected. A very big share of the trauma inflicted last week is the result of the state hoarding revenue sharing from cities and counties across Michigan — revenue that is collected from the cities based on sales taxes within jurisdictions, and that rightfully should be returned.

    While the governor and state legislators continue outrageous shell games with what revenue exists, it is clear that only the 2010 gubernatorial and legislative elections will clean the slate and move Michigan from its partisan political paralysis.

    State and local governments knew, without a doubt, that layoffs and recession impacts in the private sector would assuredly be mirrored in the public sector. So, too, will the turnaround.

    Last week the new Grand Rapids city manager and long-time city employee, Greg Sundstrom, provided general bullet points for cuts, including the embrace of consolidating services (for emergency dispatch systems) with that of the city of Wyoming, knocked especially hard in a year marked by its General Motors plant closing.

    Stepping back from the crisis of “slashing,” one must ask: What took so long? The city has for more than five years practiced some of the principles of outcomes-based budgeting as well as a program of continuous improvement practices. If government can cost its citizens less, why haven’t those savings been provided? This is also true of the county.

    That said, Grand Rapids Business Journal has advocated and saluted those practices, and likewise praises and encourages the work between the county and the city/cities for budget plans that are holistic rather than independent and duplicative.

    Sundstrom said last week: “I assure you that throughout our deliberations and debate — and with competent and thoughtful city staff to aid us — we will, in the end, do the right thing. And Grand Rapids will come through this time of painful realignment a stronger, better, fairer and more prosperous city.”

    There is much to like of that attitude and the partnerships of consolidation. It bears noting, too, that it is another way this community continues to be unique and offer another model for public sector peers across the state. Michigan’s problems are certainly ingrained and perpetuated for lack of such cooperation, as is evident in every day headlines from east Michigan.

    Also last week, three West Michigan companies were honored with awards for excellence in commercial real estate, including Duke Suwyn, Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce; Stan Wisinski, The Wisinisk Group; and Bob Grooters, Grooters Development.

    The University of Michigan Urban Land Institute annual state conference attendees shared the pain of a business year likely to be seen as the worst in history. During a panel session, Wisinski told the group his peers in West Michigan have “worked hard and used their imagination” to turn the tide. Suwyn noted that whole new properties have been re-created from old manufacturing plants using creativity and partnerships. Such is the same formula now for the public sector.

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