Peter Auger, Auburn Hills City Manager
Thoughts on running a city, daily musings, and everything in between.
City Manager, Auburn Hills, MI
Part of my day today was doing a windshield survey of some of our roads. As mentioned on the blog before, we have many projects scheduled in 2014, 2015 and 2016. These have been planned and budgeted for to maximize other streams of revenue to stretch our road dollars.
There have been many discussions about how Michigan lags in funding for roads per capita and we need to raise more money. How much more do we need?
I don’t know.
We face a challenge because we have messed up on how we collect funding. Take our cost of gasoline, and the taxes we pay. If it was $4 per gallon, 18 cents gets sent to Washington D.C. (Highway Trust fund) to be given out by those who know better. Nineteen cents goes to Lansing as a State Road Tax and spread across the state. An additional 22 cents of the $4 is a State Sales Tax that goes to the schools.
Want to have fun, check out where all the fees, licenses and fines go from across the state…
We don’t have a user fee system that most think we have. Even with the taxes paid on gasoline, a third goes to something that has nothing to do with roads.
I think the question that we should ask is what are we paying for now and how are we paying for it? We think we are paying for roads with gas tax or license fees, but what if those funds are siphoned off for other things, maybe we are not paying what we think for roads…
Talk about transparency, how about a dashboard for all taxes and fees so we know where the money we are currently paying is going.
Today is March 5th.
If that does not ring a bell with you, five people died on March 5th.
In 1773 it was referred to as “The Bloody Massacre in King Street.”
Mr. Patrick Carr was one victim. He was a leather worker and also an Irish immigrant. He died two weeks later. Mr. Samuel Maverick was a youth of seventeen years of age, mortally wounded and he died the next morning. Mr. James Caldwell was also 17 years old when he was shot. Mr. Samuel Gray was a rope-maker, he died on the spot. Mr. Gray was known as one of the hardiest brawlers in Boston. Finally, probably the most known or publicized was the sailor named Crispus Attucks who died on the spot.
Yes, you may have known this as The Boston Massacre. It was the killing of five colonists by British regulars on March 5, 1770. Of course, this was the culmination of tensions in the American colonies that had been growing since Royal troops first appeared in Massachusetts to enforce the heavy tax burden imposed by the Townshend Acts.
Now see if you can read this blog without humming “listen to a story bout a man named Jed.” I know this classic will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day. For the past 4 to 5 months the city council has been exploring options with oil drilling companies looking around the region.
The city council has done a good job of listening to residents, nonresidents, advocates, the MDEQ and oil drilling companies as they attempt to understand the pros and cons of this type of business in our community. Believe me, city council has listened and given our staff guidelines to come up with a plan that takes everyone points of view, as much as possible, into the city’s final solution.
We have attempted to take everyone’s feelings, thoughts, and concerns and are attempting to marry that up to current state and federal laws and regulations. Some say BAN is the answer. Well one community tried that and ended up paying out close to $1M settlement and the company was still able to drill.
So we are looking at similar uses, just like we do with other business classifications. Where does it make sense? What type of traffic, noises, hours of operations does this business have and is there an area in our community that this type of business would work in.
We believe the city council has given us a good direction to follow and staff has been doing a good job of working towards a solution. There is no way to please everyone, but we feel we can resolve most of the concerns that have been brought up including this not occurring next to any homes, no fracking, not in city parks, etc…
So, no Buddy Ebsen here, no TV sit com, but the show must go on!
If words didn’t mean something, then you might get credit for saying a lot of words, but not mean anything. You may go back to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in 1602 in his poem Lord Polonius and the famous line of “…since brevity is the soul of wit” to harness one of my philosophies of keep it simple because I am a simple man.
Have you ever tried to make your point with as few words as possible? I know I’ve sat through lectures where I swear they were paid by the word instead of the value of the content of the speech. Some of the best remembered speeches are simple and very few words.
Here are a few:
From Canadian educator Laurence Peter, “Fortune knocks but once, but misfortune has much more patience.”
Or, the Roman philosopher Seneca, “No man was ever wise by chance.”
And finally, from Luc de Clapiers a French writer, “Clarity is the counterbalance of profound thoughts.”
So maybe we should think before we speak, and then say less to mean more…
Talk about a hot topic. Nothing like a good old fashion cold and snowy winter to have a bumper crop of pot holes. Our crews are filling the holes with cold patch, but I think the worst is yet to come. No, I am not Chicken Little and calling out that the sky is falling (I’ll leave that to former Vice Presidents). But we have a deep frost that could be deeper than most years. One city manager informed me it was 70” in his jurisdiction and the lake had 30” thickness.
I am no scientist, but if the thaw comes all at once in the spring, without some gradual thawing, I think we could have some greater than normal heaving of roadways.
Fortunately, we do have aggressive capital improvement projects moving forward. The years 2014, 2015 and 2016 people will be complaining about all the construction zones. The City of Auburn Hills has been scheduling, planning and budgeting for infrastructure improvements, repairs and rehabilitation for the past several years and now you will get to see the barrels going up.
Some of these projects include:
Plus other patching projects and other unexpected issues (like water main breaks).
It is also important to understand that we do not control all of our roads in the city. There are 3 different entities that have jurisdiction/ responsibilities for roads. The State of Michigan (state highways), the Road Commission for Oakland County (County thoroughfares, like Joslyn, Walton, Opdyke), and then the city’s roads.
We attempt to coordinate road projects as not to tie up all roads during the same seasons. We also work with water, sewer and other utility upgrades to work projects in concert so we don’t rip up a good road two years after we fix it.
A final component we look at is funding. There is never enough money to do everything we want. We attempt to leverage what we have to bring back people’s money that they sent to Washington and Lansing for the improvements they were originally intended for, to create public value.
Now I could get into road funding, but that’s an entire other blog….
Yesterday some city manager’s testified in Lansing against the toil of what is called EVIP. For the last several years the Governor and legislature has attempted an experiment on providing your tax money back to your communities. There used to be 2 types of State Shared Revenue (SSR) that were to stream line and make more uniform the collection of taxes across the State of Michigan. The first type is Constitutional which is written into the state’s constitution. The 2nd is statutory which each year was supposed to be based on what the state collected and funneled to the local communities to pay for the local services we provide.
Well, you can guess what happens when you send money somewhere and they have control of how much gets sent back to the locals, yup, you end up getting less and less, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars that was intended for local use.
With people getting more upset about some local, state and federal shenanigans, a cry went out for transparency and accountability, along with consulting language of dashboards etc… Who could be against such efforts? Well, how about the people that are supposed to do more work only to receive less of the funding they were originally intended to receive. The fact that they rule for reporting change every year also doesn’t help the program.
Now on top of that, some of these “tax dollars” are now going to be given to private companies to help some communities with the extra create work.
The managers I know don’t fear transparency or accountability, but there is a frustration that unfunded mandates from state and federal departments continue to live on under a different name.
By Karrie Marsh, Executive Assistant and Guest Blogger
The City of Auburn Hills is unique compared to most communities in many positive ways, one of them has to do with social media. We know how important it is to keep those in the community informed about the many events, services and daily happenings in the City. Not only does City Manager Pete Auger blog, other department heads do as well. We are also involved in Facebook, Twitter and now podcast!
I am a regular podcast listener. There are a variety of topics covered on podcast and you can easily listen to them in your car on your IPhone. To add to the variety, you can now listen to our very own Director of Public Safety and Police Chief, Doreen Olko. She recently began providing information on topics such as DDACTS (data driven approach to crime and traffic safety), Active Shooter Response, Changes to EMS Services and more. What a great way to get important information in just a matter of minutes “straight from the Chief” as the podcast is appropriately called. Check it out!
There are so many times when someone wants to fight or argue and they know exactly what button to push to get the ball rolling. I find this not only in the physical sense but also in dividing groups of people. It’s done all the time to attempt to make someone look bad, and truth be told, the reason people do it is because it works. Almost like they know what button to push.
I see it happening now, just this week. VW, a car factory in Tennessee, allowed the UAW into the plant to see if the employees wanted to be recognized by the union. Vote was taken, it was close but the employees decided not to be represented by the UAW at this time. You may think that is the end of the story, but it’s not, and I think that is the shame of it.
One side claims that people where influenced by a Politian’s statement, the other side shouts back that that black shirted union folks attempted to intimidate in the plants, etc…
Wait, elections have consequences. Vote taken, time to move on.
But wait, we’re not done yet. I just read this morning where the governor of South Carolina said that Chrysler, Ford and GM jobs are not wanted in her state. I am sure this will start a verbal battle, someone from the American 3 or the UAW will have to one up her.
Don’t take the bait. People who did not want the union to represent them in Tennessee, should not spike the football…hand it back to the referee.
Move on. As Abe Lincoln once said “A house divided against itself cannot stand…” Let us work together to build great product and services. When we travel abroad on business recruitment and retention visits, the one thing that stands out for foreign companies is the United States is so vast in the area it covers. We actually, although one country, have many different life styles, paces of life and regional advantages and disadvantages.
We should embrace those differences. I think our founding fathers were brilliant when they divided our form of governance into three separate but equal branches. It’s all about a delicate balance. When the pendulum swings too far one way, it normally has to swing back and sometimes goes too far the other way, but a well-run clock’s pendulum has a nice equal swing to it.
Time to move on folks, don’t take the bait.
I heard if I wanted my blog readership to go up I should use more 4 letter words. I guess Google Hits are better when 4 letter words are utilized. Hence one of the reasons for the blog title.
The other reason was I have been struggling with when had work became a bad word?
It seems there is this mission creep into the American culture that work is bad, leisure is good. We see it with the un Affordable Health Care Act where the federal government has started calling a 30 hour work week full time employment. Hmmm…seems when I was growing up 40 hours a week was a standard for full time employment.
Just this morning, someone I went to high school with (yes, I went to high school) posted on Facebook:
“When I was a kid, we WANTED to work. We begged for hours, didn’t complain and ALWAYS showed up for work. There’s been a complete shift in culture on this…”
Don’t get me wrong, we liked to have fun growing up (still do), but we knew we had to work to do the other things we wanted to do. Driving a car, cost money. Going to the movies, cost money. A trip to Boblo Island (ask your parents), cost money.
I think we also understood that we wouldn’t be CEO’s, Franchise owners, managers, etc… right away. We had to work fast food, manual labor, and other jobs that we didn’t want to do all our lives to prove we were good workers and learn things.
I remember that when I ended my tour in the Armed Forces and came back home. The Army told me the first thing to do was to go file for unemployment. That was the only transition help we were given. I did. I went and filled for unemployment benefits, I think I only received 1 check. I went out and found work. I worked landscaping during the day (6 days a week), waited tables in the afternoon, and did some free-lance investigations and security on the side. Oh, and by the way, I was also enrolled in Oakland Community College where I took three classes. Trust me, I am not boasting, that is what I thought was expected if you ever wanted to get ahead.
An attorney friend of mine just the other day told me something like “Anyone can make it good in this country by working only half days.” This kind of shocked me because I know his work ethic and some of what he had to do to “make it”. He then finished the thought. “You just have to pick which 12 hours.”
I heard one of those lotteries was up to $200 million tonight. A question always gets asked, would you work if you won the lottery?
I guess I don’t have the answers to how to put work ethic back into American culture and I might be called crazy (not the first time), but I would absolutely work if I won the lottery.
I like to work.
I enjoy work.
…and I hope that I add value every day.
Yes, I have heard some people say, “Pete” (because that’s what they call me) “Would you quit bragging all the time about how many jobs are in Auburn Hills, how many new companies are relocating to your community, how well your team works together, we are tired about reading about this happy stuff in Auburn Hills.”
Well if you are one of those folks, I can save you 2 minutes and stop reading here.
Okay, for the rest of you…
Maybe the below listed email will help people understand why when we get to testify in Lansing about essential services we include DPW in the conversation. State elected officials don’t see it the way we do.
Let me set the stage. Being a dispatcher who answers phones and gets the right resources to assist people can be a challenging job. You are locked in a room, surrounded by computers and television monitors. Your major tools (besides your brain and ability to think quickly and process information very fast), are phones and a radio.
Sometimes you don’t hear how the story ends, you, as a dispatcher are just inserted in the middle of the story.
So now to the email…
I just wanted to acknowledge the excellent service provided by the DPW crew overnight. We in dispatch know they were out there for a specific reason, which was the snow. However, we had 2 additional issues come up, and we turned to DPW for assistance. The first was a water issue, and it was unclear whether it was a city water main break or a private plumbing issue. I contacted Mr. Innes, and he took the person’s information to contact him himself – no questions asked. The second issue was a semi that got stuck in the snow on High Meadow (he would’ve been ok if he didn’t have to stop, but unfortunately he had to for another car). We tried to get a tow truck to help him out, but they wouldn’t because they couldn’t verify his credit card at that hour. We were pretty much out of options, and it sounded like he really just needed something for some traction. We again contacted DPW. They responded to him right away and got him on his way. Again – that’s not what they were out there to do. They could’ve objected, or at the very least questioned the request, but they didn’t.
My point is that we are all Emergency Services. Some emergencies might be one department’s issue more than another department’s, but I was so impressed that it didn’t matter to them. They just did what was asked of them, and with a positive attitude. While I’m lucky to work with my immediate Emergency Services family (primarily police and fire), I’m also grateful to work with such a great extended Emergency Services family (DPW). Please forward our thanks to the crew that was out there this morning, we appreciated them!
Yup, pretty neat group we work with here in Auburn Hills. And the dispatchers took the time to send the thank you email to the DPW bosses. This gets to what we focus on in the Credibility section of The Great Work Place, The three main components of this section are Communication, Competence and Integrity.
Okay, maybe not bragging, how about boasting, or is it just telling the Auburn Hills story?