The Fate of Transit Remains in Limbo in Southeastern Michigan

The fate of public transit in Southeastern Michigan continues to remain unknown. While the Suburban Mobility Authority For Regional Transportation (SMART) millage passed in communities throughout Oakland and Wayne counties and, just barely, in Macomb County the cohesion amongst public figures and, most importantly, the public continues to disintegrate. The continued outspoken opposition against the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) by Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel tend to gain the most attention, but the near death of public transit in Macomb County should speak even louder. In Macomb County, when a SMART millage goes before voters the entire county must either approve or vote it down. Just last month the voters of Macomb County were asked to approve a SMART millage renewal. The voters did approve the millage renewal, but by a mere 23 votes, even though Hackel was urging for a “yes” vote on this proposal. Four years ago though, when Macomb County voters were asked to approve a millage increase, from 0.59 mills to 1 mill, the passage rate was 60 percent. This approval came before the 2016 RTA millage request that ultimately failed. This RTA millage proposal passed in Wayne and Washtenaw counties, where support was a given, and continues, by the elected officials and businesses, while it failed in Macomb and Oakland counties.

Two years later, officials still can’t come to a consensus on what the RTA proposal should be, which is why it will not appear on the November ballot.

The stories amongst elected officials remain the same, Patterson and Hackel don’t support transit in the form of the RTA, Wayne and Washtenaw county and Detroit officials see the need to expand on current systems and the messaging transit advocates have tried to push for years is not getting through. With the SMART millage passage transit options will continue to be provided in areas of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Additionally, the Detroit Department of Transportation and SMART continue to strengthen their relationship to provider faster and broader connectivity for transit users. However, the negativity propagated about regional transit from Patterson and Hackel seems to be trickling down to voters. It is vital that regional community, meaning the voters, comes together to push for a robust system that allows citizens greater opportunities to travel to jobs, educational institutions and health care providers. There must be support for a system that encourages economic growth, and most importantly, breaks down barriers that currently exist in Southeastern Michigan. To do this, citizens need to educate themselves on both sides of the regional transit debate, grow their understanding on what transit means for a region and not be afraid to speak against the loudest in the room.

As to public officials, one wonders when those officials who do support transit—those in Wayne County, Washtenaw County and Detroit—will realize that they can innovate without their recalcitrant neighbors to the north. A thriving transit system propelled by these governments will support the rapidly evolving growth economy along the east-west axes of I-94 and I-96/U.S. 23, even if our northern neighbors wish to lag. Let’s proceed intelligently and incrementally, if regional and rational are not feasible at this time.

Metro-Detroit Transit Continues With Uphill Battle Despite SMART Millage Passage

The Suburban Mobility Authority For Regional Transportation (SMART) received a vote of confidence from the tri-county region for its four-year 1 mill millage renewal, which was also a slight increase for communities in Macomb and Oakland counties (the increase request was due to Headlee amendment rollbacks in previous years that brought original 1 mill rate slightly below that). However, even though election results show the SMART millage passed in Macomb County and in areas of Oakland and Wayne counties on Aug. 7, 2018, there were questions if that was really the case. In mid-August the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance requested a partial recount of the Macomb County SMART millage vote because the millage proposal only passed by 39 votes. According to the election results, 77,500 Macomb County voters were in favor of the millage renewal and increase and 77,461 Macomb County voters cast a ballot against the proposal. With a 50 percent passage rate, the group felt a recount was needed to ensure the results were accurate. On Aug. 29 the group stopped the partial recount because it became evident that there would not be enough “no” votes to overturn the originally approved millage approval, according to a Michigan Radio news article.

In Wayne County the SMART millage had a 73 percent passage rate, with 78,943 of the voters in favor of the millage renewal and slight increase. Oakland County had the highest pass rate at 77 percent, with 123,435 of the voters in favor of the proposal and 36,723 of the voters voting against it.

SMART, which is the region’s only existing transportation system outside of the Detroit Department of Transportation’ system, was created in 1967. As is evident by the maps above, the system operates throughout the tri-county region, but not necessarily in every community. Due to the way SMART initiatives can be placed on the county ballots (by individual counties), Macomb County is the only county in which the entire county (50 percent or more) must support a SMART millage in order for it to approved. This is why such a close approval rate for the Aug. 7 millage, and the potential of a recall, were vital for Macomb County, it’s either all or nothing. Unlike Macomb County, Oakland and Wayne counties communities have the option to “opt-out” of supporting the authority. In the second map above, data on approval rates for all Macomb County communities is available, and only partial information is available for Oakland County communities. For the Oakland County communities, these are the “opt-in” communities that approved the SMART proposal.

 

No data was available for the Wayne County communities through the Wayne County Election’s Office website; the only information available was the pass/fail rate for the millage proposal for the whole county.

In Macomb County, the cities of Grosse Pointe Shores and Eastpointe had the highest passage rates at 61 percent. Ray Township had the lowest approval rate at 31 percent, according to the results. As noted, all the Oakland County communities on the second map above had approval rates above 50 percent, because they “opted in” to use the SMART service. Of those communities, Huntington Woods had the highest approval rate at 90 percent and Walled Lake had the lowest at 70 percent.

While SMART continues to be the only regional transit authority in Southeastern Michigan, this recent election confirms again that the region has a lot of room to grow in providing equal and equitable transportation services throughout the region. If Macomb County voters did not pass the millage request, public transportation in the county would likely have ceased to exist. And, in many parts throughout Oakland and Wayne counties transportation gaps are huge.

 

Suicide Rates in Southeastern Michigan Continue to Rise

Suicide rates in the State of Michigan have been increasing, and data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows that suicide rates in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties have contributed to that increase. Between 2006 and 2016, Macomb County experienced the highest increase for all ages at a rate of 3.2 per 100,000 residents. Macomb County went from a rate of 10.2 in 2006 to 13.4 in 2016. In 2016 the suicide rate in for Oakland County was 11 per 100,000, a slight increase in the rate of 0.2. For Wayne County the rate was 11.9 per 100,00, an increase in the rate of 1.8. All three counties had a lower suicide rate in 2016 than state’s rate of 13.5 per 100,000.

Data for Livingston, Monroe, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties is not used in this post because it was only reported on a 5-year-average from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and this data is reported on an annual basis.

While the under 25 years of age population had among the lowest suicide rates of the age categories examined in this post, it did have the highest rate increases of the categories between 2006 and 2016. For the State of Michigan in 2016, the suicide rate for those under the age of 25 was 6.9 per 100,000 resident; this was an increase of 3.4 from 2006. Wayne County was the only county of the three (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb) with a higher suicide rate for the 25 and under population than the State of Michigan. According to the data, Wayne County’s suicide rate for the under 25 years of age population was 8.1 per 100,000 residents, an increase in the rate of 4.2 from 2006. With a rate increase of 4.2, Wayne County also had the highest rate increase in the tri-county region.

For the 25-74 years of age population, the suicide rate in the State of Michigan was 17.1 per 100,000 residents. Macomb County was the only county in the tri-county area with a rate higher than the state’s. The Macomb County suicide rate was 17.5 per 100,000 residents, a rate increase of 3.2 from 2006. Oakland County was the only one to experience a rate decrease for the 25-74 years of age population between 2006 and 2016. The rate decrease for Oakland County during that time period was -1 per 100,000. Oakland County’s suicide rate for the 25-74 year population was 13.9 per 100,000 residents in 2016.

For the 75 years of age and older population, Macomb County was again the only one in the tri-county region with a rate above the State’s. In 2016, Macomb County’s rate was 18.1 per 100,000 residents and the State’s was 16.4 per 100,000 residents. Macomb County experienced a rate increase of 7.8 between 2006 and 2016 while the State experienced a rate increase of 2.3. On the other hand, Oakland and Wayne counties both experienced rate decreases between 2006 and 2016. The suicide rate decrease for the 75 years of age and older population for Oakland County was 4.2 and for Wayne County it was 3.8.

Over the last 20 years, according to a recent Center for Disease Control study, the suicide rate in Michigan has increased about 33 percent, which is slightly higher than the national increase during the same time frame. That report further states that more than 20 percent of individuals who commit suicide have no known history of mental health conditions. Rather, substance abuse and relationship issues are often cited as factors.

Drug Deaths Continue to Increase in Metro-Detroit

According to the most recent data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, drug-induced death rates are higher throughout Southeastern Michigan than alcohol-induced death rates. In 2016, according to the data, St. Clair County had the highest drug-induced death rate at 46.4 per 100,000 residents; Wayne County had the second highest rate at 41.4 per 100,000 residents. Regionally, Washtenaw County had the lowest rate at 20.8 per 100,000 residents. According to a recent New York Times article that focuses on 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control, Michigan experienced more than a 10 percent increase in overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017, much of which can be attributed to synthetic opioids. The article states that with increased funding for public health programs related to mental health and substance abuse policies there is “optimism” that overdose death rates will at least begin to stabilize in the future. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan’s drug-induced death rate was 9 in 2000, having only continued to increase to 27.5 per 100,000 residents in 2016. All counties in the Southeastern Michigan region had seen similar increases in that time period as well.

While Wayne County had one of the highest drug-induced mortality rates in Southeastern Michigan, it had one of the lowest alcohol-induced mortality rates at 7.9 per 100,000 residents in 2016. The only other two counties in the region with lower alcohol-induced mortality rates were Oakland (7.4) and Washtenaw (7.7). St. Clair County had the highest alcohol-induced mortality rate at 16.3 per 100,000 residents in 2016.

Although the media attention has not been as high on alcohol-induced deaths as drug-induced deaths, a recent University of Michigan study did show that deaths related to cirrhosis (a liver disease often related to alcohol consumption) increased 65 percent between 1999 and 2016; it also stated there was a 10.5 percent increase in cirrhosis related deaths for 25-34 year olds.

Detroit Housing Prices Continue to Rise

  • The State and City of Detroit’s unemployment rate increased at the monthly and annual levels;
  • Regionally, June 2018 unemployment rates are higher than the prior year, with the exception of Monroe and Washtenaw counties;
  • Housing prices continue to rise in Metro-Detroit.

In June of 2018 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 4.3, an increase from the May unemployment rate of 3.8, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for June of 2017 was 0.3 points above what it was in June of 2018.

The Detroit rate was 1.4 points higher in June of 2018 than in May. Also, the June 2018 unemployment rate for Detroit was 1.5 points higher than what it was in June of 2017.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for June of 2017 and 2018. In June of 2018 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 5.4, with St. Clair County having the second highest regional unemployment rate 4.6. These two counties were the only two in the region to have unemployment rates above 4.5 in June of 2018. Conversely, Oakland, Washtenaw and Livingston counties all had unemployment rates at or below 3.5 in June of 2018.

Oakland County and Livingston County were the only other two counties in the region with an unemployment rate below 3.5. Regionally, Livingston County had the lowest unemployment rate in June of 2018 at 3.3. Livingston County also had the lowest unemployment rate in June of 2017 at 3 while Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate in June of 2017 at 5.

When comparing 2017 and 2018, Monroe and Washtenaw counties are the only two where the unemployment rate was higher in 2017 than in 2018. For Monroe County, in June of 2017 the unemployment rate was 4.9 and for 2018 it was 4.4. For Washtenaw County there was also a 0.4 difference, from 3.9 in 2017 down to 3.5 in 2018.

The above chart shows the Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area. The index includes the price for homes that have sold but does not include the price of new home construction, condos, or homes that have been remodeled.

According to the index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $122,600 in May 2018; this was $920 higher than the average family dwelling price in April. The May 2018 price was an increase of $7,740 from May of 2017 and an increase of $16,060 from May of 2016, an increase of $21,030 from May of 2015 and increase of $26,430 from May of 2014.

Wayne County Experiences Largest Decrease in African American Homeownership

According to data from the American Community Survey, Saginaw County had the highest percentage of African American homeowners of the Michigan counties with more than 10,000 African American households. In 2000, 54 percent of the adult African American population owned a home in Saginaw County. In 2016, 51 percent of the adult African American population in Saginaw County owned a home; this was equivalent to 13,820 households. Overall, there was a 3 percent decrease between the percentage of African American household owners between 2000 and 2016 in Saginaw County. Ingham County also experienced a 3 percent change between 2000 and 2016, from 38 percent to 35 percent, and Washtenaw County experienced the lowest percentage change at 1 percent. In 2000 in Washtenaw County, 39 percent of the African American population owned a home and in 2016 it decreased to 38 percent. It was Wayne County that had the largest decrease between 2000 and 2016 in the percentage of African American homeowners. In 2000 53 percent of the African American population owned a home and in 2016 that decreased to 42 percent. In total in Wayne County, according to the American Community Survey, there were 303,717 households owned by African Americans in 2000 and in 2016 that decreased to 264,759.

According the Urban Institute, where this data was originally presented, the overall percentage of African American ownership in Michigan decreased from 51 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2016. Additionally, it was 45-64 age group that experienced the largest loss in homeownership (18%). While the overall loss of homeownership between 2000 and 2016 can be attributed to the Great Recession, the Urban Institute also found that the rise of land contracts and property tax foreclosures contributed to the loss.

 

Southeastern Michigan Experiences Decrease in Felony Offenders

Last week’s blog focused on what sentencing types felony offenders received in 2016 for the Southeastern Michigan region. That information is valuable in understanding if one sentencing type, such as prison, jail or probation, is more common than other regionally and from county-to-county. This, week the data digs further to see if there is any type of trend in sentencing types at the state level and at the county level in Southeastern Michigan. Additionally, the data in this post shows the sheer number of felony offenders who were sentenced in total and to prison or jail between 2012 and 2016. One important note is that those sentenced to prison are sentenced to spend more than a year in jail/prison.

In the first chart below, the data shows there has been a decrease in the number of people charged as felony offenders and sentenced to anything ranging from prison to jail to probation, or even community service. In 2012 there were 49,201 felony criminal offenders and by 2016 that number decreased to 47,347. This is a trend similar throughout Southeastern Michigan, with Wayne County having the highest number of felony criminal offenders and also the largest difference of those being sentenced between 2012 and 2016. In 2012 there were 10,103 felony criminal offenders in Wayne County and in 2016 that number decreased to 9,315. Of the seven counties in the region, Monroe County was the only one to experience an increase in the number of criminal felony offenders between 2012 and 2016. In 2012 there were 631 felony offenders sentenced and in 2016 that number increased to 744. Livingston County has had the lowest number of criminal felony offenders sentenced each year between 2012 and 2016 in the region.

Although there has been a gradual decrease in the number of felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison in Southeastern Michigan between 2012 and 2016 the percentage sentenced to prison has not followed that exact pattern. At the state level, there were 10,732 felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison in 2012, and by 2016 that number decreased to 9,648. On a percentage basis, 21.4 percent of the felony criminal offenders were sentenced to prison in 2012 and in 2016 that number was 20.4. Regionally, Livingston and Monroe counties had the highest percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison between 2012 and 2016, but by the numbers Wayne County had the highest number of offenders sentenced to prison (2,329 and 1,867, respectively). In 2012, 25.3 percent of felony criminal offenders were sentenced to prison in Livingston County and for Monroe County that number was 24.1 percent. Respectively, those numbers decreased to 24.5 percent for Livingston County and increased to 26.5 percent for Monroe County.

As noted above, Wayne County had highest percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison between 2012 and 2016, but in terms of the percentage sentenced to prison as opposed to other sentencing options, Wayne County has consistently remained in the middle of all seven counties in the region and has experienced an overall decrease in the percentage sentenced from 23.1 percent in 2012 to 20 percent in 2016. Overall, Macomb County has consistency had the lowest percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison, with the exception of 2015. Macomb County has also experienced a decrease in the percentage and number of felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison. In 2012, there were 710 felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison in Macomb County, which made up 16.5 percent of felony criminal offenders sentenced that year. In 2016 the number of felony criminal offenders sentenced to prison decreased to 572, and the percentage decreased to 13.9 percent.

The chart below shows the number of felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail throughout Southeastern Michigan. In 2012 Oakland County there were 1,059 felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail, and in 2016 there were 1,367 felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail. For Wayne County, there were 887 felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail in 2012 ,and in 2016 there were 767 sentenced.

These numbers for Wayne County reflect where the county lies amongst the other counties in the region in terms of the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail between 2012 and 2016. As the second chart below shows, with the exception of 2014, Wayne County has the had the lowest percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail regionally between 2012 and 2016. In 2012 11.4 percent of criminal offenders were sentenced to jail in Wayne County in 2016 that number was 8.2 percent. On the opposite side of the spectrum, St. Clair County has consistently had the highest percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail out of all seven counties in the region; its number have also been above the state’s number as well. In 2012, 36 percent of felony criminal offenders in St. Clair County were sentenced to jail and in 2016 that number increased to 40.5 percent. Even though the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail in St. Clair County is increasing, the total number of offenders sentenced to jail decreased from 908 in 2012 to 840 in 2016.

The above charts focus on the number and percentage of individuals sentenced to prison and jail in Southeastern Michigan, showing that, in general, there has been a decrease in those two sentencing options

Below, the chart shows the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to probation. Oakland and St. Clair counties experienced the largest decrease in the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to probation. In 2012, 7.6 percent of felony criminal offenders were sentenced to probation in St. Clair County and 6 percent of the offenders in Oakland County were sentenced to probation that same year. In 2016 that number decreased to 4.2 percent for St. Clair County and 5.1 percent for Oakland County. Oakland County has experienced an increase in the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail between 2012 and 2016 and St. Clair County has experienced an increase in the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to jail and prison in between 2012 and 2016.

Washtenaw and Wayne counties have experienced the largest increase in the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced to probation between 2012 and 2016. In 2012, 29.3 percent of felony criminal offenders were sentenced to probation in Washtenaw County and 52.1 percent were sentenced to probation in Wayne County. By 2016 that number increased to 34.1 percent for Washtenaw County and 56.7 percent for Wayne County. The percentage of individuals sentenced to probation for Wayne County has consistently been the highest in the region.

Overall, this post shows that there has been an overall decrease in the number of felony criminal offenders between 2012 and 2016, and with that a decrease in the number of such offenders sentenced to prison. The percentage of individuals sentenced to prison in Southeastern Michigan has generally decreased as well, with the exception of counties such as St. Clair and Monroe.

Oakland County experienced one of the highest percentage increases in the number of felony offenders sentenced to jail; the number increased too. As these numbers and percentages sentenced to prison increase, they decrease for the number of felony criminal offenders sentenced to probation.

Counties such as Wayne, Washtenaw, and even Macomb, have been using probation more as a sentencing option since 2012 (Wayne is in the upper 50%). By contrast, Monroe and St. Clair use probation for small proportions of offenders–less than 10 percent.   Clearly, the type of sentencing a felony criminal offender receives varies substantially across counties. There could be many reasons for this. It is possible decisions might be related to cost of sentencing an individual to jail or prison and the number of offenders already being housed in a jail or prison. For example, Macomb and Wayne counties have well publicized overcrowding issues at their jails, and Wayne County also has budget issues. This could help explain the trend toward increased probation and decreased jail.

 

Wayne County Has Highest Percentage of Criminal Offenders on Probation

 

The Michigan Department of Corrections releases a report annually that details, among other information, the percentage in which felony offenders are sentenced to prison, jail, jail and probation, probation and other (community service, restitution fines and costs) for all offenses, drug offenses and assaultive offenses. The post highlights those breakdowns by county in the seven county region.

When examining the overall breakdown between the five categories above, Monroe County had highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison over any other sentence type. In 2016, 26.5 percent of the felony offenders in Monroe County were sentenced to prison. Livingston County was the only other county in the region where more than 20 percent of felony offenders were sentenced to prison; this number was 24.5 percent. Macomb County had the lowest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to prison at about 14 percent. The largest difference between prison and jail is the length of stay for an offender; traditionally if an offender is sentenced to serve time for longer than a year they are sentenced to prison.

In the jail category for all criminal felony offenders, St. Clair County had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to only jail at 40.5 percent. Oakland County had the second highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to only jail time at about 28 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage at 8.2 percent. Wayne County also had the lowest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to jail and probation at 14.9 percent. For the jail/probation sentencing category, Monroe County had the highest percentage of felony offenders sentenced to that category at 60.5 percent. Overall, the jail/probation category had the highest percentage of sentencing for all felony criminal offenses in the region, with the exception of Wayne County. According to the data, in Wayne County in 2016 56.7 percent of criminal felony offenders were sentenced to probation; the county with the second highest probation sentencing rate was Washtenaw County 34. 1 percent. Livingston County had the lowest probation rate at 7.6 percent.

The maps below portray for those sentenced for drug offenses the percent of the correctional population in different settings.

 

When examining only felony drug offenders, St. Clair County had highest percentage of individuals who were sentenced to prison at 16.8 percent. Monroe County had 16.7 percent of its felony drug offenders sentenced to prison. Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced to prison at 4 percent.

For the jail, jail/probation and probation sentencing categories St. Clair County also had the highest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced to jail at about 44 percent. The county that had the second highest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced to jail was Oakland County at 33.6 percent. Monroe County had the lowest percentage of felony drug offenders to jail at 11.9 percent and the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to jail and probation at 68.7 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of felony drug offenders sentenced to jail and probation at 15.2 percent but had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to only probation at 66.5 percent. That sentencing category had the greatest difference between the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to probation and the lowest percentage sentenced. While Wayne County had 66.5 percent of offenders sentenced to probation, only 2.4 percent of felony drug offenders were sentenced to probation in 2016 in Monroe County.

When examining the percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced for assaultive offenses in 2016, the range in the percentage of individuals sentenced to prison was the narrowest amongst all seven counties. Monroe County had the highest percentage of felony criminal offenders sentenced for assaultive offenses at 41 percent while Oakland County had the lowest percentage at 31.6 percent. The range for those sentenced to jail was a bit wider, with St. Clair County having the highest percentage of felony assault offenders sentenced to jail 35.5 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of felony assault offenders sentenced to jail at 5.2 percent. For the jail/probation sentencing category Monroe County had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced at 48.5 percent and Wayne County had the lowest percentage sentenced at 14.1 percent. While Wayne County had the lowest percentage of felony assault offenders sentenced to jail and jail/probation it had the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to just probation at 41.9 percent. See maps below.

One of the main takeaways from this post is that Wayne County regularly has the highest percentage of offenders sentenced to only probation and the lowest percentage sentenced to any length of a jail stay. The reason for this could be because probation is traditionally less expensive for a government entity than sentencing someone to jail. Capacity issues at county jails could also play a role in this decision. Next week, we will examine how the numbers of offenders in each county in Southeastern Michigan has changed over the years, a set of data that could further support the observations above.

Lake Huron has Highest Number of Beach Advisories/Closures

On July 8, 2018 there were 23 beach closures throughout the State of Michigan, three of which were in the Southeastern Michigan region. These were Newburgh Lake in Wayne County, Fox Lake in Oakland County and the Lake St. Clair Metropark Beach in Macomb County. Thus far in 2018, the Lake St. Clair Metropark Beach has been closed for a total of 25 days due to high bacteria levels, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The earliest closure for Lake St. Clair Metropark Beach began on May 31, 2018 and lasted for three days. The most recent closure was announced on June 21, 2018 and it remains closed. According to the MDEQ, advisories or closures are most commonly issued due to elevated counts of E. coli in water samples collected from the shoreline of a water body. Health departments use the daily and 30-day geometric mean to determine if a beach closure or advisory should be issued; for E. coli that average is 300 milliliters. E. coli contaminations often occur from storm water, sanitary sewer overflow and wildlife (such as excrement left from Canadian Geese). Below are three charts showing the number of beach advisories/closures (formally referred to as actions) taken between 2012-2017 on beaches monitored along Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake St. Clair and Lake Superior. It is important to note that not all beaches along the Great Lakes (and Lake St. Clair) are monitored. Local health departments and non-profits receive federal and state grant funding to monitor beaches. Monitoring must occur on beaches for which grant funding is provided for. The first chart below shows the percentage of monitored beaches across the state that had an advisory between 2013-2017. The highest percentage of actions occurred in 2015 at 25 percent; most recently the percentage of actions reported in 2017 was 18 percent. The 10-year average was 21.5 percent.

When looking at the sheer number of actions by lake, Lake Huron has regularly had the most number of advisory/closures since 2013, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. In 2017, 18 were reported, a decrease from the high of 29 in 2015.

The final chart below details the number of closures and advisories issued for Lake St. Clair Metropark, due to its regularity of closures compared to other monitored beaches in Southeastern Michigan. As noted earlier, Lake St. Clair Metropark often has a Canadian Geese problem, and it is regularly noted in media outlets that the excrement from these birds contribute to the high E. coli levels in the water samples. To deter the number of geese at the beach, the Metropark has enlisted the help of three dogs to chase away the geese.

As the St. Clair Beach Metropark takes steps to deter a contributor to its closures, the State also began using a rapid testing method to identify E. coli contamination faster. The method identifies and measures E. coli DNA and provides results on the same day it is collected; the more traditional method provides results up to three days later. Currently, according to the MDEQ, there are 12 labs in the state able to perform this method.

More Underfunded Retiree Healthcare Plans than Pension Plans in Southeastern Michigan

In Southeastern Michigan more government entities were found to have underfunded retiree healthcare plans than the number of government entities with underfunded pension plans. According to the data provided by the Michigan Department of Treasury there were 50 underfunded retiree healthcare systems of the 183 government entities that had provided their financial information to the State as of June 9, 2018. A government entity’s retiree healthcare plan is deemed underfunded by the State if it is less than 40 percent funded and has an annual contribution greater than 12 percent of government funds.

Of the municipalities that were deemed funded by the State, Rose Township had the highest funding percentage for municipalities at 331 percent. Other municipalities with retiree healthcare funding above 100 percent are:

Municipalities

  • Rose Township: 331%
  • Groveland Township: 197%
  • Algonac: 163%
  • Oakland County: 127%
  • Detroit: 121%
  • Macomb Township: 114%
  • Royal Oak: 107%
  • Pontiac (Police and Fire): 105%
  • Milford: 104%
  • Farmington Hills: 100%

Special Districts

  • West Bloomfield Public Township Public Library: 147%
  • Brighton Area Fire Authority: 109%

While there was about a dozen different Southeastern Michigan government entities with more than 100 percent of the retiree healthcare plans funded, there were also 37 entities that had 0 percent of the retiree healthcare plan funded. However, not all of these entities were deemed underfunded, rather only 18 were. Not all government entities that fell below the 40 percent threshold were deemed underfunded due to the fact they were contributing less than 12 percent of their revenue to fund the plan. For example, the City of Brighton has 11 percent of its retiree healthcare funded, but according to the Michigan Department of Treasury, the city’s annual contribution to the plan is 10.4 percent of the City’s revenue. This is less than the 12 percent trigger point set by the State.

As with pension systems, funding retiree healthcare systems is vital not only to a government entity’s financial healthy, but also to retention and recruitment of employees.