Representatives of the Michigan Municipal League (MML) from around the state gathered at the Lansing Center for two days of talks, networking and learning from one another on how to move Michigan forward. With General Sessions, Breakout Sessions, Keynote Speeches, Legislative Receptions and a Convention Hall with several dozen exhibitors, there wasn’t much down time for participants. However, over 500 local and municipal officials were there to gain knowledge and ensure their local voices are heard in Lansing. The MML provides the forum to ensure a strong connection remains between those local representatives and the politicians in Lansing.
Tuesdays’ conference began with welcoming remarks from the Leagues’ Board of Trustees President, Jacqueline Noonan, Mayor of Utica, followed by remarks from Virg Bernero, Mayor of Lansing and Lt. Governor Brian Calley. The MML legislative staff outlined the conference agenda and the main themes the conference would address, including transportation and economic development. The day ended with a Capital Conference Kick-Off Party in the main hall.
Wednesdays’ events began with a lively General Session in which Tim Skubick, Capitol Correspondent, asked tough questions and followed up on responses from Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, State Representative Tim Greimel and Senator Gretchen Whitmer, Senior Democratic Leader. Much of the discussion centered on the gas tax, potholes and whether legalized marijuana will be passed by this legislature.
Several breakout sessions were offered following the General Session. Of particular interest was the session entitled “Crowdfunding the Future”, which was held to a standing room only crowd. In that session, experts discussed this creative new approach in economic development and how it can help a new business get started, provide additional funds to an existing business or help with local real estate development projects. It was interesting hearing from national experts, a local business owner who had used crowdfunding, an investor’s perspective and even a banker’s perspective on how it can become a useful economic development tool.
The keynote speaker at lunch was Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, who was in town to testify on the importance of mass transit to the citizens of his city and the surrounding areas. He spoke of how transit oriented development (tod) helped turn a disadvantaged part of Salt Lake City into one of its more vibrant areas following installation of a transit line. He also remarked that it has improved quality of life for all and is more than an economic driver. Just before the crowd broke, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan absconded with the microphone and told the crowd the City of Detroit was once again a dues paying member of the MML and that he would work hard with other members to make Detroit the shining example of the State once again. His comments received a strong favorable response from most members of the audience.
The afternoon sessions were filled with more breakout sessions of interest to the members. Attending the Lobbyist 2.0 session helped members understand how to keep up with all the new issues in Lansing and a constantly changing Legislature. Following the Local to Lansing general session and a general session on crowdfunding, a Legislative Reception was held at the Lansing Center which allowed a final opportunity for attendees to mingle and network before the conference concluded. Due to a late session of the Legislature, most legislators and their staff were unable to attend the final days’ event.
While local city councils and mayors have a short time to network and learn at events such as the MML’s Capital Conference, this event in particular is of importance to them. It provides the forum to connect with both their legislators and lobbyists to ensure their local voices are heard in Lansing. There is much we can learn from one another and the Capital Conference provides an annual opportunity for those in politics to be more effective when they return home.
ROBERT E. MATTLER, Associate Broker, Attorney and LEED AP BD+C, is Director of Green Brokerage at Armada Real Estate Services in West Bloomfield, Michigan. He speaks, writes and reports about emerging green real estate and development issues in Michigan and elsewhere. Bob is a senior correspondent for www.greeningdetroit.com For more information, contact Bob at Armada Real Estate (248) 855-1221; or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org