By Maren Roeske
The Tower (Grosse Pointe, Michigan)
Local [Grosse Pointe, Michigan]
Grosse Pointe Shores City Council recently in mid November, made a motion to take advantage of lower interest rates to save money on bonds. The bond sale is expected to take place in January. According to the Shores Finance committee, this will save the city $350,000 to $450,000 on bonds from 2007 for a new marina in Osius Park.
The low interest rates “directly affect the marina fund, which needs all the help it can get,” City Councilman Bruce Bisballe, chair of the Finance Committee, said in an interview with the Grosse Pointe Times.
The motion to refinance the bonds was unanimously voted in by the City Council.
“I’m really excited,” City Manager Mark Wollenweber said in an interview with the Grosse Pointe Times. “This is a really positive step for us.”
In other local financial news, the City’s financial records audit for the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year show that the City has done a good job managing its books.
“The City received an unmodified opinion this year, which is the highest level of assurance you can receive,” Pam Hill , one of the audit partners with Plante & Moran which conducts the City’s audits, said in an interview with the Grosse Pointe Times. “The numbers … are free of material misstatements.”
Hill commended the City Council at a meeting on November 16 for the admirable budget, specifically the general fund. At the end of the fiscal year the City’s general fund, which amounts to around 20 percent of the total budget, had a balance of over $1.25 million.
“The general fund still is looking healthy,” Hill said. “The City has made a lot of hard decisions [in the fallout of the recession] in order to deal with your new set of revenues today. … You [the council] should feel good about where you ended up.”
Hill and another audit partner of Plante & Moran, Spencer Tawa, pointed to the 2009 collapse of the housing market as the cause of the still low property tax income for the City. The low income tax revenue is happening because Proposal A and the Headlee Amendment work to cap property tax increases at either 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower, “Even though the value on … homes may be going up, your revenue is not going up” nearly as quickly as the rise in property values Hill said.
Tawa said in his report to the City Council that property tax revenue “has started to creep up a little bit,” but projections from the auditors suggest that even by 2024, the City won’t be at its 2009 level of taxable value. In 2009, the City had almost $400 million in taxable value. In 2024, the City is expected to have just over $370 million in taxable value.
“The recovery takes a lot longer than the decrease,” Tawa said.
Despite the still low property tax revenue, the City is in good shape financially Hill said.
“We did not have any [worrisome] findings, as the money was spent appropriately,” Hill said.
During the State Legislature’s Thanksgiving recess, Governor Rick Snyder signed over 29 bills into law. One of the primary new laws was the package bill to fix Michigan’s roads, which includes a tax hike in gas and registration fees and a shift of $600 million in general funds to the roads. The new taxes are expected to begin generating revenue in 2017.
Other prominent laws signed in by the Governor include guarantees that local projects are competitively bid, cuts in income taxes when the economy is good and an expansion of the amount of people eligible for the Homestead Property Tax exemption. Many smaller laws were signed in as well, including larger fines for hunting protected species out of season and creating a Michigan “Blue Alert” which provides quick public announcements on attacks of law enforcement.
Michigan has also become a focus on presidential election campaigns even with the Michigan primaries over three months away. Michigan will be the 21st state to vote in the primaries with elections taking place on Tuesday, March 8.
Already presidential candidates have turned their eyes to Michigan. While Michigan tends to vote democratic in presidential elections, republican candidates hope to win the 32 electoral votes of Michigan..
“They may win only 20%, but they can pick up some delegates,” Tom Shields, political consultant with Marketing Resource Group in Lansing, said in interview with the Detroit Free Press. “This will give the candidates the ability to claim victory, at least in terms of delegates.”
Republican Candidate Jeb Bush is one of the first to focus on Michigan. The Right to Rise super PAC in support of Bush reserved $1.8 million in T.V. advertising from February to the March voting day. Bush has already made six visits to the state this year as well.
Detroit native Ben Carson also is beginning to seek advertising opportunities in his home state. According to records filed with the Federal Communications Commision, Carson is looking into advertising rates for the coming months. Carson has also made stops in Michigan and plans to come again before the primaries.
On Monday, Nov. 23, Ohio Governor John Kasich made his eighth trip to Michigan, highlighting his belief that Michigan is a keystone state to winning the region and the election.
“Michigan could turn out to be critical. We think it could come at an important time in the cycle,” Kasich said in an interview with the Free Press before touring Velocity Center, a business incubator run by Macomb County and Oakland University in Sterling Heights. “Once we get to the Midwest, we’re going to have Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. Every time I come here, it’s a little bit of money in the bank, it’s easy to get to for us, and we think it’s important and I think it’s also important that if I were to be the nominee, it’s a place I think I can win. It is like Ohio. We’re just two different sides of the same coin.”
Kasich, as well as Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, have Michigan based consultants for the state.
Ted Cruz won the prominent Michigan endorsement of Tea Party Senator Patrick Colbeck as well as former republican chair Saul Anuzis and others in the State Legislature.
Bush has also garnered support through a similar high profile list of endorsements headed by Attorney General Bill Schuette.
On the democratic spectrum both Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have visited the state and plan to visit again despite consolidating their efforts in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first states to vote in the primaries.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders so far is absent from campaign efforts in Michigan but has a large volunteer base, mainly rooted in millennial voters, working in his stead.
“A lot of the millennials who weren’t around for 2008 for President Obama kind of lost hope,” Kelly Collison, who started the “Michigan For Bernie” Facebook page for volunteers, said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. “Everything seemed to be going downhill. We walked into adulthood right in the recession and there were no jobs, the cost of education was skyrocketing and there was no guarantee that we could find a job in our career choice but Sanders has this track record that is so squeaky clean for actually standing up for the 99%. There was no denying that this is a candidate that we could trust and believe in.”
This Monday marks the first of six consecutive trials into the Baltimore police officers accused of murdering 25 year old Freddie Gray while he was custody in April. Gray’s death sparked protests in the city and throughout the nation in the rise of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is leading the persecution of the officers. Mosby intends to convict on forceful charges, the most serious of which is second-degree murder. William Porter is charged with manslaughter, second degree assault and misconduct in office and will be the first to go on trial.
Hailed as a hero by Baltimore’s black communities, Mosby has the chance to be the first prosecutor to win a trial against police brutality since the “Black Lives Matter” movement took shape in the wake of Mike Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Mo. In New York City and in Ferguson grand juries decided not to indict officers in police related deaths earlier in the resurgent civil rights movement.
Mosby has received strong support from Baltimore’s black residents in the past as well. She won her 2014 election for her current position through the support of black voters, beating the incumbent who had more fundraising power. But now more than ever, Mosby has their support along with national communities said Tre Murphy of the Baltimore Algebra Project, a social justice organization.
“It was a great symbolic victory for folks in Baltimore,” Murphy said of Mosby’s strict charges in an interview with Time Magazine.
J. Wyndal Gordon, a Baltimore defense attorney said Mosby’s actions sent a very clear message to police that they will be prosecuted if something like this happens again.
“It was brave,” Gordon said in an interview with Time. “And it was just what the city needed. Right now, she is Baltimore’s darling.”
In the wake of increased airstrikes against Islamic State (ISIS) following the violent attacks suffered in Paris, ‘Jihadi John’ was pronounced dead. The social-media famous ISIS executioner, featured beheading hostages in many of the terrorist groups gory videos was pronounced dead by U.S. Military officials, reported killed in an drone strike in Raqqa, Syria.
Widely believed to be Englishman Mohammed Emwazi, Emwazi defected to Syria from Britain and became a figurehead for ISIS as he rose to infamy as an executioner. According to reports released by military officials, both British and American intelligence confirm that Emwazi is dead.
“He was a primary recruitment tool for that organization,” Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a press statement. “We’re all familiar with the ghastly videos- the absolute barbarism that he displayed against American citizens. I mean this guy was a human animal, and killing him is probably making the world a better place.”
Also trying to make the world a better place, the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) and the eleventh session of the Conference of the Parties meeting under the Kyoto Protocol gathered in Paris on Nov. 30 for the United Nations Climate Conference. Over 40,000 delegate from 195 countries and 150 national leaders came together in Paris and at the COP21 for one simple goal — agree to set legally binding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions before the summit ends on December 11.
“That’s what we seek in these next two weeks — not simply an agreement to roll back the pollution we put into the skies, but an agreement that helps us lift people from poverty without condemning the next generation to a planet that is beyond its capacity to repair,” President Barack Obama said in his address at the COP21.
President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on Monday to discuss solutions. China and the United States are the world’s largest producers of greenhouses gases, playing an important role in the conference by both agreeing to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In the latest study conducted by the Department of Energy in 2011, China produced 8715.31 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and the United States produced 5490.63 million metric tons.
The next highest producers of carbon dioxide are Russia and then India with significantly lower numbers. Russia produced 1788.14 million metric tons and India produced 1725.76 million metric ton according to the Department of Energy. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke out about the necessity to stop global climate change early at the COP21.
Climate change is “one of the greatest threats humanity is facing.” President Putin said. “Russia not only prevented the increase of greenhouse emissions, it has reduced them.” He promised a 70% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2030.
Prime Minister Modi called for a “comprehensive, equitable and durable agreement that leads us to restore balance between humanity and nature.”
High hopes are being placed on the COP21 to place strict measures to protect the Earth and the delegates and world leaders present feel the pressure to deliver by the end of the conference.
“The Paris UN Climate Conference represents an historic opportunity to put the world on course to meet the climate change challenge,”Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a press release. “The world needs a new model of growth that is safe, durable and beneficial to all. COP21 seeks to deliver a clear pathway with short and long term milestones, and a system to help us measure and increase progress over time until we get the job done. The Paris Agreement is not only possible, it is necessary and urgent. We are counting on everyone’s contribution.”
Image Credit: The Tower