Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The State of Livingston County

One of the best moves I've seen politically around here in a long time is to bring back the State of the County address. As most of us know, our elected partisan county leadership is 100% Republican. Livingston County has been controlled by Republicans for 50 years. Wayne County has been controlled by Democrats for 50 years. One county is in relatively good shape despite the economy. The other is a cluster always featured in Charlie LeDuff news stories. I keep mentioning those for two reasons. One is that both counties are in SE Michigan. The other is that elections have consequences. It's not an accident that Livingston County grows while Wayne County shrinks. Leadership helped make it that way. We don't have a County Executive like a Bob Ficano. We don't need it. The chair of the Wayne County Commissioners, Gary Woronchak (D-Dearborn) protects Bob Ficano. The commissioners here do their jobs and generally stay out of the news.

Last Monday, Carol Griffith, the Chair of the Livingston County Commissioners, gave the State of the County address. It was important for two reasons as it answers two questions. A. What do commissioners do? B. What is the difference between Republican run county and a Democrat run county in the same region when it comes to competence issues?

State of the County Address is as follows. Carol's statement is in bold. I copied from a PDF using a free program, so the formatting isn't as good as it could be. The whole speech is up on the County Website.

Good evening and Welcome:  Distinguished Guests, Elected Officials, Judges,
Livingston County Department Heads, Employees, Hard-working Tax Payers and
Constituents.   I am so glad you are here!

Let me begin this evening's State of the County Address with the assurance that
Livingston County is active and thriving.  The recent economic recession has touched all of us,
No individual or entity has been exempt from the challenges. I want to take a personal moment
and thank you for staying involved and pushing for positive changes in our County. We have
found common ground and shared purpose and worked together - we have collaborated,
consolidated and sacrificed for the betterment of Livingston County and its future.  The past
few years have been tough, but I am happy to report that we are now seeing some undeniable
signs of recovery, which I will share with you this evening.

Let's take a minute to look at Livingston County closely. No one knows the quality of life
better than a Realtor. Livingston County boasts of:

  • Quality schools
  • World renown hospitals / medicine within driving distance
  • Diverse housing opportunities; from farms to condominiums, lakefront and unique subdivisions
  • * Easy freeway access for commuters to major cities
    ·Abundant arts and cultural events, farmers markets
    * Fine dining
    * 55 lakes
  • ·Great recreation
  •  Highly acclaimed universities and colleges
We are the envy of other counties and maybe the Nation!
*    We have a balanced budget
*    We have the lowest tax rate of all 83 Counties in Michigan
*    We have AAA Moody's rating-shared by only 3 other Counties in Michigan
Dan's comments (not in bold) - We got lucky with the lakes and recreation. I grew up next to the woods. However the last three parts aren't luck at all. Balanced budgets, low taxes, and bond ratings aren't luck. They are due to discipline and work over a period of years.

It goes without saying that the success of Livingston County is directly tied to the hard
working taxpayers, County Commissioners, Elected Officials, County employees and
community volunteers.

The vast majority of the those people over the past 50 years are Republican.The current commission is Republican as well.

Our County has a history of meeting the challenges and opportunities that have been placed before us.  Our foundation has been predicated upon seeking better.
* A better approach
* A better product
* A better service
Therefore working together for a better tomorrow.

This didn't start immediately. This was a process that started when our county saw the economic writing on the law back in the early 2000's. Prior planning prevents piss poor performance. It avoids the pitfalls and avoids us being featured on Charlie LeDuff's news stories. The funds dropped, and we STILL have balanced budgets, low taxes, and high bond ratings.

It is without question that Livingston County is the envy of many Counties in the State of
Michigan.  Although we see signs of economic recovery we must proceed with caution. The
National and global economy is extremely feeble and fragile - due caution will be taken with
every good policy decision and action.

Although Livingston County can be viewed as an island surrounded by turbulent waters
we need to be mindful of headwinds that can influence our budgetary processes. As I have

indicated throughout this State of the County Address, County government is a complex, inter-
related system of constitutionally, statutorily, contractually and service-oriented activities,
programs and services. It is important to note that while some levels of activities may be at the
discretion of your Board of Commissioners, the obligation to provide services may not.

We will continue to monitor the following headwinds:
·        We will maintain working closely with local townships where the potential exists that
they may be unable to meet their contractual obligations to pay debt service on bond
* We will continue to monitor the impact of the elimination of the Personal Property Tax
by the State~ no replacement of revenue will impact our budget.
*    State imposed mandates: One of the County's biggest challenge's comes from the State of Michigan imposing additional mandates without funding to support these efforts. In the Governor's recent budget message, he indicates that: "Michigan has emerged as the nation's comeback State and his proposed budget continues to move Michigan forward."  His fiscal year 2014 budget calls for increases in several service areas and an increase to the State Rainy Day Fund.  To County Government it feels like the State Comeback is off the backs of County Govemment.
·        In 2014 our State Shared Revenue will be reduced $1.0 million.  Although, the State has offered a competitive grant assistance program to receive monies for new consolidation/collaboration/ cooperation projects-what about those Counties that have  projects in place?  You have witnessed from my Address that Livingston County has been doing this for years!   We understand the need to work together in the spirit of cooperation for all levels of government to succeed.  The message I want to send back to Lansing, to the Governor, and our House Representatives and Senator is:  DON'T PENALIZE US FOR BEING FISCALLY RESPONSIVE BY DEPLETING OUR REVENUES AND GIVING IT TO THOSE THAT HAVE BEEN LESS THAN PRUDENT.

I agree to an extent. I think the funds need to be cut off from those who have proven they can't manage money properly. Elections should have more consequences and I'm tired of bailing out the screwups. While others screwed up, Livingston got its act together.

To receive our state shared revenue, we now have to certify to the State that we meet
their established criteria for the three categories of:

>       Accountability and transparency,
       Consolidation of services; and,
       Employee compensation.

This is nothing new to Livingston County.   Our County leads the charge in these areas
and our progress can be reviewed on the County website through our "dashboard " In an effort
to live within our means while maintaining a sustainable government during an extended
period of declining tax revenue, the Board has been proactive since 2003.   Our employees
have made substantial salary and benefit concessions, including:
* Converting the retiree health care program for eligible employees from defined
benefit to defined contribution-this curtails legacy costs dramatically from $20.5
million down to $3.2 million.

Reducing the County workforce without affecting services to taxpayers by
maintaining a hiring freeze for all vacant positions funded through the General
Offering voluntary retirement incentives, modifying employee pension and
healthcare costs resulting in a savings of millions of dollars.
The Board of Commissioners have adopted a number of policies and related
procedures which ensure the timely tracking of internal controls
in such areas
purchasing, cash management, departmental audits and accounting,

Once again, 1 wish to express the sincere appreciation and admiration from this Board
of Commissioners to our employees and Administrative Staff for having the maturity and
knowledge to recognize the steps necessary to reduce cost and preserve  jobs|  Without our
employees we could not provide quality levels of services to our constituents.  Consolidation of
services and cost sharing, has been our standard operating procedure for years.

In summation of this evening's Address, I stand before you with great pride that our County is on firm ground.  We honor our tax payers and we celebrate the legacy of leadership  over the years that have led Livingston County to be an exemplary form of Government. We  continue to be a sought after community where businesses flourish and families feel safe and secure.  We are proud to call Livingston County home. Finally, the long-term fiscal stability of Livingston County is much more than simply balancing annual revenues with annual appropriations; but a process to enhance fiscal integrity for a BETTER tomorrow.

In closing, I wish to personally thank the employees of Livingston County including our
County Administrator Belinda Peters, Elected Officials and County Commissioners that have
made tough decisions.  It has been said;
"A true leader has the confidence to stand alone,
The courage to make tough decisions
And the compassion to listen to the needs of others.
He/she does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the quality of his/her actions and
the integrity of his/her intent "
May Livingston County continue to be a leader for a BETTER tomorrow.

Good evening.

 Good speech, and a good job by our commissioners. Livingston County shouldn't be penalized for "been there, done that" when others messed up. What we all need to remember is that our Livingston County officials doing their jobs isn't something that happens by accident. It happens because we elect good Republicans to county government over a long period of time. That's why Livingston County is what it is today. That's why we have not gone down the same path as Wayne County and the McNamara gang.


Communications guru said...

Like I said before, what a crock of shit. Then why does the majority of Michigan’s population live in Wayne County? Low tax rate equals just the bare essential services. Isn’t it funny that if you want to have a baby born, you have to go to democratically controlled area? Livingston County seems to be going backward. It’s long overdue for some forward looking people on the Board of Commissioners.

Conservative First said...

Wayne County's population is about 19% of Michigan's population, not anywhere near a majority. Its population has been declining since 1970.

Conservative First said...

Regarding baby booms, see this list of fertility by state.

Nine of the top ten most fertile states voted for Romney. The bottom ten (including DC) voted for Obama. Guru really doesn't bother getting the facts.

Communications guru said...

Wayne County is the most populace county in Michigan; meaning more people live in Wayne County than any other. Baby boom? What the hell are you talking about? Who cares? The point is if a woman wants to have a baby in Livingston County, she can’t. She has to go to Ann Arbor, Flint or Lansing. You could in 1928 until about four years ago, but not anymore. That's progress.