Creating City Futures

Motor City Master Plan. Detroit COO Gary Brown this week at “The Making of a Great City,” the first of six community meetings by Detroit Future City, said the Motor City needs a master plan to guide future development, but Mr. Brown also said Detroit needs to take a regional approach to revitalization—pointing to the Cobo Center authority and the so-called “grand bargain” fashioned by U.S. Chief Judge Gerald Rosen with Gov. Rick Snyder, bipartisan state legislative leaders, and non-profit leaders—especially in retaining the Detroit Institute of Arts. But Mr. Brown also recognized the new Great Lakes Water Authority (as did U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes at the New York Federal Reserve in his remarks Tuesday) as examples of regional cooperation that are moving Detroit forward. Nevertheless, he warned that the city’s declining population will continue to drop until Detroit can solve its crisis in education and public safety: “Get over the numbers that we’re not growing…Let’s manage the city well. Let’s find regional approaches to fixing the problems as opposed to doing it all by ourselves.” Another speaker, Roxanne Qualls, former Mayor and city council member in Cincinnati, told the audience that during her three terms as Mayor of Cincinnati in the 1990s, she focused on revitalizing neighborhoods, increasing home ownership, and redeveloping Cincinnati’s central riverfront—leading her to advise the audience that her advice for Detroit was to have a vision, a plan, and leadership: “To make any of that meaningful you have to have capacity: Identify resources and make them significant.” Much of the focus of the evening was on the Detroit Future City plan, a framework to guide city revitalization: a 345-page book completed in 2012 that is seen by many as the core of a city master plan. The plan, which was originated as the “Detroit Works,” then renamed Detroit Future City, is an exhaustive effort to engage citizens, map the city, analyze land use and population, and make recommendations for the best ways to use land and the city’s water, people and other resources. At the session Mayor Dayne Walling, of Flint, which adopted the first city master plan in 50 years, said Detroit should make the process of adopting a city master plan as public as possible and give it time and work with those to get the work done.

Getting Ready for Tomorrow. Happy Birthday to the 9,000 U.S. citizens who turned 69 today. And yesterday. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. The unfaltering progression of aging in the U.S. – and longer lifespans—means an increasingly inverted equation of fiscal contributions. Thus it was that Tuesday the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, the country’s largest U.S. public pension fund, announced that the State of California and its schools will increase their contributions to employee pension funds by 6 percent, commencing on July 1st, noting that the increases were driven by payroll growth, salary increases, and retirees having the nerve to live longer than projected. For the state, that means it must pony up an additional $487 million to $4.7 billion; the state’s public schools must increase their contributions by $111 million to $1.3 billion. Richard Costigan, chair of the finance and administration committee, said in a statement: “As the fund matures, and the retired population grows, it’s important that the rates reflect the changing demographics of our members.” The growing cost of public pensions is a key issue for state and local governments across the nation as guaranteed payments to retired employees have often forced cuts in spending on public services. CalPERS has $300 billion in total assets and the pension fund was roughly 77 percent funded as of last June.

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