A victory for homeowners
Sometimes, you can fight city hall.
Huntington Woods officials have rightly repealed a controversial tree ordinance after residents conducted a petition drive asking the city to either repeal the law or submit it for voter approval.
The regulation was an unwarranted intrusion into the property rights of homeowners. It required residents to pay oppressively high fees, which included $75 for a permit to remove a tree and $450 per tree to guarantee all permit and tree replacement requirements had been met.
Allison Iversen, with the help of neighbors, led the fight against the regulation. The successful petition drive showed the extent of the residents’ anger. They gathered 533 signatures, almost three times as many as the 180 required by the city charter.
Citizens were rightly outraged at the ordinance, which was the epitome of government overreach and a violation of private property rights.
State offers help to youngest citizens
Michigan is launching an innovative project geared to improve the health of high-risk pregnant women as well as young mothers and their babies up to 2 years old.
Michigan Partners for Success has state government teaming up with private and public groups to address persistent community health problems.
Solutions could range from better ways to provide in-home care to improved coordination of existing services.
Private and public groups would provide upfront funding with government covering the costs only if the organization’s program is successful. Proposals from prospective groups are due this fall, with the programs expected to begin in 2015.
Partners for Success is part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s efforts to reduce the state’s infant mortality rate, which is particularly high in many urban areas.
Private-public partnerships have worked in many municipal areas and could be successful in dealing with these critical health care issues.
Northville school budget a model
The Northville School District is a good example of what can happen when officials are bold enough to take the difficult fiscal steps needed for a balanced budget.
Busing and custodial services in the district were privatized and concessions won from teachers, which included reducing staff. Consequently, the district lowered its annual spending by more than $3 million from 2010 to 2013. Also helping the bottom line was approval of a technology bond issue and establishment of a sinking fund.
As a result, Northville boasts a balanced budget, increased reserves and a low debt burden.
On top of that, it’s still attracting new families and gaining new students because of the quality of its education. The 7,200-student district is bucking a state trend, adding students at the rate of 3.5 percent annually since 2008. Statewide, during that same period, enrollment dropped 11 percent.
Northville serves as a model for other school districts and all local governments that are facing tight budgets and tough choices.