Everyone who lives in or visits the state of Michigan knows the state of the roads is abysmal. Why? The answer isn’t entirely clear until you start investigating.
So just who is responsible for Michigan roads? As I mentioned in the video, there are three levels: Michigan Department of Transportation, county road commissions, cities, villages and townships that receive funding. You must track the funding from one of these three areas.
The road problem should have been solved a long time ago by proficient state, city and local managers. But apparently we cannot rely on government officials to do their jobs and fix things. Why is that?
The citizens of Michigan are left with a confusing situation where we find that:
At a time when some politicians are calling Michigan’s roads dangerous, and state funding for transportation is projected to have nearly doubled over a 10-year period, Michigan doesn’t have money to fix deteriorating roads.
This is because the population is growing and there is more road traffic, thus the need to fix the infrastructure and do it right.
Experts say it is significantly more expensive to replace a bad road than maintain a fair one. Then why don’t we invest in better road construction materials like the Europeans do?
Case Study: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Kalamazoo is a city in Michigan which has crappy roads. Apparently the city has budget problems; it hasn’t been able to balance it’s budget.
The city convened a panel to address the problem and a Michigan State University economist stated that, “Unless the community’s growing rapidly, has lots of new development and construction, lots of new jobs coming in…” it is going to not be able to maintain itself fiscally. The problem seems to be that “strict caps on property taxes under Michigan’s Headlee Amendment and Proposal A” create this situation.
But you can’t run a city like a corporation that intends to always make a return on its investments.
The mayor has a bright idea. He asks two of the areas wealthiest individuals to help with the budget problems. They just happen to be philanthropists.
Experts in philanthropy stress that city leaders must take precautions before diving headfirst into a financial deal with some of the city’s wealthiest citizens.
Some raise concerns that the new model could help displace the traditional role of government. It also potentially gives the wealthy donors more power over local government operations than perhaps was ever intended in an American-style democracy.
“…there are still many unanswered questions about the details of its philanthropic plans and its founders. The motivations of the donors, for example, remain mysterious.”
Basically blurring the line between government and corporations at the local level — foundation documents suggest that donors may be able to earmark some or all of their donations for specific projects.
The $70 million dollar ‘gift’ to Kalamazoo has created a flurry of construction. Apparently there will be a lot more roadwork also:
Although some in Kalamazoo tout that local control of major streets leads to equitable development, there has been very little equity involved. The main construction and road work centers on the downtown area, meanwhile residential neighborhood roads continue to deteriorate while property taxes have increased and the cost of utilities have risen.