Saturday Shorts: In Royal Oak, where the sidewalks begin
Local governments have a propensity for costly projects that may not be necessary. But in Royal Oak, residents spoke up and both sides are praising the cooperation shown in changing the city's sidewalk replacement program.
Residents, led by Matt Gerwolls, thought the city was too aggressive by doing some expensive and unnecessary work. Debate arose over the sidewalk squares that had pits or holes in them. Initially, the city wanted to replace the squares that appeared to have too many pits but through discussions, a compromise was reached. Residents will be allowed to patch the squares that have minimal holes but are otherwise in good condition.
The city was being proactive, says city manager Donald E. Johnson, because generally, work is done on a 10-year cycle. It may be another decade before Gerwolls' neighborhood is addressed.
Gerwolls says residents are satisfied, noting they've taken "a big step in making the sidewalk replacement program a lot better."
Protests won't stop drilling
The drilling of oil and natural gas wells in residential areas continues to spur protests from homeowners. The most recent turmoil has been in Shelby Township, where one neighborhood got what it wanted when the company stopped its operation because it couldn't locate any reserves.
While residents toast their "victory," people should remember that drilling on private property will undoubtedly be conducted elsewhere. The locating of oil and gas reserves is too valuable to the economy to be halted by the NIMBY (Not-in-my-back-yard) opponents.
Michigan residents should realize they may protest all they want but private property owners have a right to do what they wish with their land if the action meets state regulations, which are stringent and more than reasonable.
The Department of Environmental Quality is doing a good job of regulating the drilling industry while also being a public watch dog. No operation will be allowed if it poses a threat to public safety or the environment.
Recovery taking time
A quick look at the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) construction report for 2014 offers some good economic news. But taking a closer look at the statistics, it's evident that the current recovery is very fragile and needs careful nurturing.
The report shows southeast Michigan finished 2014 with a total of 7,855 new residential building permits issued, but it's only a one-percent increase over 2013, which had 7,766. In fact, the boost was attributed to a 65 percent increase in apartment construction, with Detroit leading the way with 732 permits out of 2,154 for the entire region.
However, permits for single family homes and condominiums dropped 12 percent in each category. Oakland and Macomb counties recorded drops in permits but still lead the other five with 2,421 and 1,814, respectively.
While the figures show the economy may be improving, the situation is still delicate so regional and state officials need to continue to make moves that are business friendly.