East Lansing city manager looks ahead to 2011
By Scott Pohl, WKAR
EAST LANSING, MI –
Michigan will have a new governor and there will be major turnover in the legislature in the new year.
The changes could have a huge impact on cities like East Lansing.
WKAR's Scott Pohl spoke with city manager Ted Staton about the new administration, new legislative leadership, and what it might mean to East Lansing. He says we all have a stake in the success of governor-elect Rick Snyder and the rest of the new leadership in Lansing.
He adds that "we can't afford to fail."
TED STATON: "With a dramatic turnover, and we were going to have it whether or not Republicans had the leadership or Democrats had the leadership, that comes with it the need to make your case to new legislators, and so we're going to have to do that early in the year. We certainly have heard the governor say a lot of the right things about how important cities are to the Michigan economy. We think that's particularly true of the university communities."
"You know, we were named one of the ten best college towns to start a business, we've celebrated a number of entrepreneurship milestones. So, and then this governor being head of a former tech company himself, I think is very sensitive and appreciative of the role that that will play, and the role that universities will play, I think, in returning Michigan to prosperity."
SCOTT POHL: "What are you expecting might happen with regard to revenue sharing to cities next year?"
STATON: "Well, we're certainly frightened over those prospects. There's a $1.5 billion projected deficit now. There are forecasts that the Michigan Business Tax will be eliminated, and certainly not replaced dollar for dollar and perhaps doubling the projected deficit to in the vicinity of $3 billion. That's about 40% of the total state budget. I don't know how you cut 40% of the total state budget, even with sweeping reforms, and sweeping reforms often take a while to implement. So, you know, for us, loss of state aid, if it was a wholesale loss, would be 10% more of the city budget to cut, and that's after a decade of cuts already."
REASONS TO BE HOPEFUL
POHL: "When you look ahead to 2011, what sorts of things give you cause for optimism? Everything we've talked about has focused on the sorts of problems you might face next year. What gives you hope for 2011?"
STATON: "I think the numbers about the Michigan economy are starting to turn. We're starting to see a reduction in unemployment. We're starting to see job growth. Certainly, national numbers are starting to turn, whether you look at the stock market or GDP or whatever you follow. So, the business cycle is turning for the advantage of the United States and the advantage of Michigan, so that's certainly a good thing. I think the credit markets are starting to loosen up a bit. So, two or three of the projects that we planned for downtown I think are likely get legs and actually see progress next year. So, I'm optimistic about those things."
FUTURE OF CITY CENTER II
POHL: "City Center II, at the corner of Grand River and Abbot: what will we see there a year from now?"
STATON: "I hate to be, you know, a Pollyanna about it, because I've been saying this for a couple of years: just a couple more months, just a couple more months. But in the last month, I think there's been a real turn for the positive on this in terms of a third party, in partnership with Strathmore Development, coming to the table with the ability to finance the unfunded portions of the project. So, you know, we're, I hate to use the term cautiously optimistic, that the wrecking ball will be swung sometime in the first quarter of 2011. And then we'll actually start to see construction advance after that."