Supported by a $225,000, two-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Michigan Economic Center at the Prima Civitas Foundation has launched the "Michigan Dream Restored" project. Michigan Dream Restored will develop policies for "public good" investment strategies based on citizen input.
"Great universities, good roads, clean water, public safety, and quality of life matter enormously to Michigan residents," said Michigan Economic Center Director John Austin. "We have not figured out as a state how to intelligently invest in these critical Michigan assets -- many of which have degraded due to tough economic times and tight budgets."
The Center has announced the names of a multi-sector advisory board assembled to guide the project, including Small Business Association of Michigan President Rob Fowler, former State Budget Director Don Gilmer, and AFL-CIO President Karla Swift. The Advisory Board met in August to review successful national models for funding public assets and Michigan-specific models. The Advisory Board also discussed methods for a citizen engagement process to evaluate values and priorities.
The project's goal is to contribute a number of research-driven, citizen-vetted policy ideas to inform 2013 public debate on state budget and legislative priorities and offer additional citizen-informed investment solutions for public discussion in 2014.
"We all want to fix our roads, make our great universities affordable, ensure that our cities are places that people want to live. Pure Michigan can be a reality," said AFL-CIO's Swift. "We need to listen better to our citizens about how we can work together to meet these challenges."
Nationally, states facing similar economic and fiscal challenges have succeeded in designing strategies and mobilizing the public to support important public good investments, such as Ohio's $2.3 billion Third Frontier innovation initiative or Minnesota's Clean Water, Land, and Legacy act that invests $6 billion over 25 years in clean water, parks, and the arts.
"While we reform public services to be more efficient, Michigan too has to find a way to focus needed resources on important priorities like our roads, clean water, and affordable education," said SBAM's Fowler.
The project will engage citizen input through focus groups and sophisticated value identification tools used successfully by private-sector consumer market research. The first round of focus groups began this week with sessions in Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Traverse City. The project is also "crowdsourcing" ideas from citizens through its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/MichiganEconomicCenter.
For more information on the Michigan Economic Center or John Austin, please visit the initiative's website at www.MiEconomicCenter.org. To learn more and support the Michigan Dream Restored initiative, please visit: www.mieconomiccenter.org/AgendaImpact/CurrentProjects.aspx.