All the Single Ladies (And Gentlemen): Marriage Rates in Southeastern Michigan Continue to Decline

Overall, there was a greater percentage of individuals in Southeastern Michigan who were never been married in 2019 compared to 2010, according to US Census data. In 2019, the county with the highest percentage of married individuals was Livingston County where 58 percent of those who were 15 years of age or older were married; comparatively 63 percent were married in 2010. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of those 15 years of age and older who were married in 2019 at 38 percent, compared to 40 percent who were married in 2010. Overall, each county in Southeastern Michigan experienced a decline between 1 and 4.5 percent of married individuals between 2010 and 2019.

While the percentage of married individuals declined between 2010 and 2019, the percentage of those never married increased. Livingston County experienced a 3.5 percent increase between 2010 and 2019; 22.5 percent of individuals were never married in 2010 and 26 percent were never married in 2019. Overall in 2019 Washtenaw County had the highest percentage of individuals who were never married at 43 percent; Washtenaw County also had the highest percentage of individuals who were never married in 2010 at 40 percent.

As the general data shows, there is a growing trend of individuals not getting married, and a deeper dive into the data also shows that the age group further highlights that trend is the 20-34-year-old age group. According to the Census data, four of the seven counties in the region experienced a 3 to 7 percent increase in the percentage of 20-34-year-old individuals who have never been married between 2010 and 2019. Livingston County experienced the greatest increase at 7 percent; in 2010 56 percent of 20-34-year-olds in Livingston County were never married, and by 2019 that increased to 73 percent. Washtenaw County experienced a 5 percent increase while Macomb and Wayne counties each experienced 3 percent increases. Monroe County was the only one in the region to experience a percent decrease in 20-34-year-olds who were never married; that increase was only 0.3 percent.

In addition to the percent increase of 20-34 year-olds who were never married between 2010 and 2019, there was also a small increase the percentage of 45-54-year-olds who were never married. In that time frame there was a 0.04 to 2.2 percent increase in that age group never married amongst six of the seven counties. Wayne County experienced the largest increase at 2.2 percent; 23 percent of the 45-54-year-olds in Wayne County were married in 2010 and by 2019 that increased to 25.2 percent. St. Clair County was the only one to experience a small decrease; about 1 percent less of the 45-54-year-olds in St. Clair were marred in 2019 compared to 2010.

Just as there were increases in the percentage of 20-34-year-olds and 45-54-year-olds never married amongst the seven counties in the region, there was also a decrease in those getting married amongst those two age groups.

Nationally, the trend of non-married individuals has been increasing since 1990, according to the Pew Research Center. Factors such as different societal priorities, such as increased focus on the workforce, and higher costs of living are in part driving this trend. Furthermore, the Brookings Institute found that marriage rates are also declining amongst the middle class, possibly due to the cost of raising children.

Michigan’s Deaths Out Pace Births

More people died in Michigan in 2020 than were born, and it has been trending this way for quite some time. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported that in 2020 there 104,166 people born and 117,087 who died; the 2020 data was only available at the state level. While COVID certainly impacted the number of 2020 deaths (11,362 were COVID related), there still would have been a greater number of deaths than births without the pandemic.

While 2020 data is not yet available at the county level, the 2019 data shows how birth and death rates have long been trending toward more deaths than births. In Wayne County, the largest county in the state, a birth rate of 12.9 births per 1,000 residents was reported, which was equivalent to 22,553 births. Wayne County had the highest birth rate in the region in 2019, but it did not have the largest change in birth rates between 2009 and 2019. According to the data, there was a birth rate of 12.9 births per 1,000 residents in Wayne County in 2019 and a birth rate of 13.6 births per 1,000 residents in 2009. Washtenaw County had the largest difference in birth rates between 2009 and 2019 at a rate decrease of 1.4 per 1,000 residents. In 2019 Washtenaw County had a birth rate of 9.7, which was equivalent to 3,560 births, and in 2009 that birth rate was 11.1. Oakland, Macomb, Monroe and St. Clair counties all also reported birth rates above 10 in 2009 (11.1, 11.1, 11.4 and 10.9, respectively); Livingston County was the only one in the region to report a birth rate below 10 in 2009. By 2019 only Macomb, Monroe, Oakland and Wayne counties reported birth rates above 10 (10.4, 10.1, 10.3 and 12.9, respectively).

Michigan’s birth rate per 1,000 residents was 11.8 in 2009 and 10.8 in 2019.

As birth rates in Michigan were declining, death rates were on the rise. In 2019, St. Clair County had the highest death rate at 1,170.8 per 1,000 residents in 2019, which was equivalent to 1,863 deaths. Macomb, Monroe and Wayne counties were the only other counties with death rates above 1,000 ( 1,026.2, 1,047.8 and 1,044.7, respectively). In 2009 though there was not one county in the region with a death rate above 1,000. St. Clair County reported 961.5 deaths per 1,000 residents, which was the highest death rate in the region reported. Overall, Monroe County experienced the highest increase in its death rate between 2009 (847 per 1,000 residents) and 2019 (1,047.8 per 1,000 residents) at a 221.8 rate increase per 1,000 residents.  

It should also be noted that Michigan’s death rate per 1,000 residents was 871.7 in 2009 and 992.3 in 2019.

A decline in births will certainly impact Michigan long-term if things don’t turn around. While

 Michigan did experience a small uptick in its population between 2010 and 2020 probably because of immigration, the rate of increase wasn’t as high as compared to other states, hence why Michigan lost a Congressional seat. Population decline, and even stagnation, could cause negative economic impacts and further loss of political power. On the other hand, it would give the environment a break from human interventions, giving forests and wildlife a chance to expand, perhaps.  

Union Membership in Michigan Rises

In 2020 there was an increase in the percentage of employees who were members of a union; there was also an increase the percentage of employees who were represented by unions. This comes after an overall decline in union membership and representation since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2010 16.5 percent of employees were members of a union in Michigan and 17. 3 percent were represented by a union. In 2020 15.2 percent of employees were members of a union and 16.6 percent were represented by a union; both categories experienced increases from 2019. Overall in Michigan in 2020 there were 604,000 union members.   In addition to these members, another 57,000 wage and salary workers in Michigan were represented by a union on their main job or covered by an employee association or contract while not union members themselves.

While the BLS does not track union membership by sector or occupation at the state level, nationally the BLS reports that the union membership rate of public-sector workers is more than five times higher than the rate of private-sector workers who are union members. According to the BLS, 33.9 percent of the public-sector employees were union members in 2021. Of those public-sector employees in the union, majority were represented those in the education, training, library and protective service occupations. The percentage of private-sector employees who were union members was 6.1 percent in 2021. According to the BLS, and a recent New York Times article, majority of the union membership decline has come from the private sector. Nationally, private-sector union membership was at 6 percent in 2021 and in 1983 it was at 17 percent.

Overall there are a greater number of private-sector employees than government employees, and while the charts below show there was a decline in the total number of employees in both sectors after COVID, the lack of union representation in the private-sector is causing, at least some, to leave their jobs, according to the New York Times article. With a shift in the labor market and workplace practices since the pandemic began, more and more workers are feeling confident in their ability to leave jobs that don’t fit their needs. While the New York Times sites that this doesn’t always leave to increased union activity, the current labor market has certainly allowed more people to be more vocal and how their employer can meet their needs, and not just the other way around.

Labor unions have experienced an overall increase in sentiment since 2009, according to Gallup, with 68 percent of those polled expressing approval of labor unions in 2021. This approval rate is the highest it has been since 1965 when there was a 71 percent approval rating. With increased media attention on the successful efforts of employees at Kellogg in Battle Creek, Kroger (King Sooper) employees in Denver, and more throughout the country to earn better wages and benefits, it should not be surprising there is an increased interest and approval in the purpose of a union. Additionally, with the makeup of the current labor market, as noted earlier, individuals have more room to seek jobs that offer better wages, benefits and overall safer and better experience—much of which the mission of unions is based around.

Michigan’s Total Solid Waste Production Declines, Amount Imported from Other States Increases

In Michigan, the total amount of solid waste disposed in the state decreased between fiscal year 2019 and 2020, as did the total amount of solid waste imported into Michigan. However, while the total amount of waste disposed of in Michigan decreased, the amount of waste disposed of in Michigan from other states increased.

The total amount of solid waste disposed in Michigan in 2020 decreased by about 3 million cubic yards, or about 5.4 percent from the previous fiscal year (2019). The amount of solid waste generated in Michigan decreased from about 43.3 million cubic yards in fiscal year 2019 to about 40.4 million cubic yards, a decrease of about 6.8 percent. Overall, the total amount of imported waste into Michigan landfills decreased from 12,380,141 cubic yards in 2020 to 12,310,608 cubic yards in 2019, a decrease of about 0.6 percent. The largest source of waste imported to Michigan continues to be from Canada, with a total of about 9.1 million cubic yards, down 480,274 cubic yards reported for fiscal year. Overall, the amount of solid waste Canada imported to Michigan in 2020 was about 17.2 percent of all waste disposed in Michigan landfills, while Michigan created about 77 percent of the waste. Other states also contributed to the total amount of solid waste in Michigan, with waste from other states brought to Michigan making up 6 percent of Michigan’s total waste. As noted, while the total amount of waste disposed of in Michigan decreased, the amount imported from other states increased from 5 to 6 percent. So, while the total amount of waste disposed of in Michigan declined, due to a decline in the waste generated in Michigan and imported from Canada, the amount of waste being brought to Michigan from other states has increased.

The data discussed above is shown in the Chart 1 and Chart 2 below and has been provided from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy.

As noted, Michigan creates, and disposes of most of the waste in Michigan. Below we see how much waste was disposed of in each county in Southeastern Michigan. The chart below does not reflect the amount of waste created in each county, but rather disposed of, meaning waste from other counties, Canada and other states are included in the numbers below.

Wayne County had the highest amount of waste disposal at more than 11.1 million cubic yards in 2020. This was more than twice the amount of any other county in the region. Macomb County had the second highest amount of waste disposed in 2020 at about 3.3 million cubic yards. Livingston County had the lowest amount of waste disposed at about 330,000 cubic yards.

Wayne County not only had the highest amount of waste disposed of in it in 2020, it also had the highest number of importers. In 2020, there were six different places that imported waste into Wayne County. Canada imported the highest amount at about 3.6 million cubic yards, followed by Washington state and then Ohio. Of the counties in the region with imported waste, St. Clair County had the lowest amount of waste imported at about 305,000 cubic yards.

Overall, it is encouraging to see the total amount of waste being disposed of in Michigan has decreased, but it remains a concern that the State continues to allow outside states and countries to import their waste. This is especially concerning as the amount of waste being imported to Michigan from other states has been increasing, despite the total amount of waste being disposed of in Michigan is decreasing.

One of the many ways to combat climate change is to decrease the amount of waste we, as a society, produce. Ways to achieve this include reusing items, recycling and being mindful in our purchases and consumption.

Maternal Deaths and the Impact of Being Uninsured

Maternal deaths remain a concern, especially with Michigan’s maternal mortality rate at 16.4 per 100,000 live births in 2018, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the United States rate at 17.4 per 100,000 live births. As described in the Surgo Venture Maternal Vulnerability Index (MVI), there are many factors that contribute to maternal mortality rates including, but not limited to, accessibility, affordability and utilization of healthcare.

Health insurance plays an important role in a woman’s pregnancy, allowing for both the mother and unborn child to receive necessary care to ensure each individual remains healthy through regular checkups and addressing any issues that may be identified during the pregnancy.

Wayne County has the highest percentage of women of childbearing age (19-44) who were uninsured at 7.8 percent, followed by Macomb County where 7.5 percent of women of childbearing age are uninsured. In Wayne County 203 of the 610 Census Tracts have 10 percent or more of women of childbearing age without health insurance and in Macomb County that number is 57 of the 217 Census Tracts. As the second map below shows, the Census Tracts with the highest percentage of women of childbearing age without health insurance are in Wayne County, with additional pockets in Macomb and Monroe counties, where more than 16  percent of women of childbearing age in a Census Tract are without health insurance.

Washtenaw County has the lowest percentage of women of childbearing age without health insurance at 4.6 percent.

As noted, this data set plays a role in determining where a county or state falls in the General Healthcare Sub-Index of the MVI, which is one of six sub-categories that explores the factors that impact maternal mortality rates and maternal health in general. In Southeastern Michigan, St. Clair County has the highest vulnerability index at 45 while Washtenaw County has an index of 0, meaning there is ease in access to and affordability of healthcare for reproductive age women. Michigan has a General Healthcare Sub-Index of 29.

The fact that Washtenaw County has the lowest percentage of women of childbearing age without health insurance explains, in part, why it also has the lowest General Healthcare Sub-Index of the MVI. However, St. Clair County has the highest General Healthcare Sub-Index of the MVI in Southeastern Michigan but has the fourth lowest percentage of women of childbearing age without health insurance in the region (5.1 percent).

So, while access to and utilization of healthcare is a vital aspect in keeping maternal deaths low, it certainly is not the only factor. Other factors include mental health, substance use, socioeconomic status, education levels and more. We will further dig into these factors to see what factors impact the areas of Southeastern Michigan the most.

Climate Change in Detroit and What Can Be Done

Climate change became real for Detroiters this year when 30,000 found their homes flooded, some to the top of their first floor, some to the top of their basements. This was the second major flood in the last decade, with another in 2014 leaving behind a huge amount of damage as well. The mechanism behind the floods is clear: air temperatures have risen with climate change, hotter air holds more water, and storms produce heavier rainstorms that are slower to move on, meaning greater accumulations of rain.

It’s not that climate change was not already real, in Detroit and beyond, prior to this summer though. Temperatures have already risen 2.5 degrees in Michigan, summers are hotter, and heatwaves are stronger and last longer. Our urban area is a heat island in the summer, and it will only get worse as temperatures rise further.

So, what can be done? A lot.

In this post we introduce our 10 top policy proposals to overcome climate change in Detroit. Each month a detailed post on one the initiatives listed below will be posted. These posts will dive deep into each recommendation, exploring how the recommendations can impact climate change and help Detroit. The posts will also discuss the potential financial and political issues related to each proposal and provide recommendations on how to overcome them.

But before we dive deep, let us first lay out what our recommendations are.

Top 10 Climate Change Proposal/Policy Recommendations for Detroit

  1. Creating a program that strengthens rooftop solar opportunities in residential and commercial buildings;
  2. Creating a community solar program;
  3. Utilizing the space at the Detroit City Airport to develop a solar field;
  4. Planting more trees along medians and on some vacant land;
  5. Prioritizing weatherization efforts;
  6. Offering and supporting heat pumps for heating and cooling;
  7. Electrifying the bus system;
  8. Further investing in green infrastructure to help overcome flooding;
  9. Developing more robust urban gardening opportunities;
  10. Finding ways to further encourage and support working from home.

We can all take action to reduce our carbon footprint, the amount of waste we create and other ways in which we accelerate climate change. But, in addition to each individual’s responsibility to become a better steward of the environment, responsibility lies on each layer of government and corporate industries to also take action through policy changes, and operation changes. The proposals above will address all such facets.

Before diving into our proposals, we must also briefly touch on what is being done in Michigan and Detroit to address climate change.

In Michigan, the State committed to becoming carbon-neutral by the year 2050. The State also committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 by 28 percent below its 1990 levels. Items that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions include the use of vehicles, the use of energy, the industrial and agricultural sectors and the creation of garbage.

According to US Energy Administration, Michigan is taking steps in reducing its reliance on coal, which is certainly a contributor to climate change. In 2020, natural gas generated the largest amount of Michigan’s electricity for the first time, surpassing coal, which fell to third after nuclear power. Natural gas accounted for 33 percent of the State’s net generation, while coal’s share declined to 27 percent. Renewable energy only contributed about 11 percent of Michigan’s net electricity generation in 2020, and wind energy accounted for three-fifths of that power. Michigan ranks among the top 15 states in wind-powered electricity generation.

Policy changes are certainly shaping Michigan’s future, and Detroit is also aiming to take action. In 2019, the City of Detroit released it Sustainability Action Agenda, which includes goals such as increasing air quality, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, transforming vacant lots into safe and sustainable places and more. Just as that document seeks to complement other City, State and national efforts to shift our climate change, so do the recommendations we have for the City of Detroit.

Detroit is not exempt from climate change, and the effects will only continue to intensify. Extreme weather patterns, flooding, decreased air and water quality, increased illness, impacts to housing—these are just a few of the impacts Metro-Detroiters (and beyond) will experience from climate change if actions aren’t taken.

Hunting Interest Declines in Michigan

Hunting in Michigan isn’t what it once was, at least according to the data. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service the total number of paid hunting license holders in Michigan has been on the decline for well over 15 years. In 2004 there were 870,432 paid hunting licenses in Michigan and by 2021 that number declined to 642,242 licenses. These numbers are reflective of all the hunting licenses in the State of Michigan, including those purchased by non-residents of the State. In addition to needing a hunting license to hunt in the State of Michigan tags, permits and other regulatory forms are also needed to hunt certain animals in Michigan; those numbers have been declining as well.

According to a recent article by Bridge Magazine, a large reason for the decline of nearly 230,000 hunters in Michigan is because of a shift in interest. The article quotes Dustin Isenhoff, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources research specialist who tracks hunting participation, who says that many of the State’s avid hunters are aging out of the sport, and many of today’s children don’t have the same interest in the sport.

With the decline of participation in hunting also comes the fear of a decline in revenue. Twenty percent of the Michigan Department of Natural Resource’s revenue comes from fees from hunting and fishing licenses. In 2014 then Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder increased the cost of hunting licenses to increase revenue from an already declining sport. In some cases, the cost of a license doubled; a typical deer license once cost a Michigan resident $15, it increased $31. And, while that has brought on increased revenue there is still the fact the number of licenses being sold is dropping significantly.

The map below shows the number of deer harvested in each county in Michigan in 2020; these numbers do not include the 9,557 that were taken with deer management permits though (these are specifically used for population control). One notable area with a high number of harvested deer and several designated hunting areas is Van Buren, Berrien and Cass counties in Southwestern Michigan. However, even with all the number of deer harvested combined in the map below, the total number is less than the number of deer harvested for population management, which is also a controversial topic.

Hunting only does so much to control the deer population as it is seasonal and can only take place on designated lands. There are deer culling programs in places like Grosse Ile and Meridian Township, but, as alluded to earlier, these programs often draw strong opposition. An Ann Arbor program was cancelled after years of opposition from residents.

Some consider deer as a nuisance to gardeners and that they drive out certain species due to their overpopulation and often are a hazard to drivers in certain places. Others note that the natural predators to deer, including coyotes and cougars, were eliminated in most places in Michigan, although the coyote population is now rising.

The issue of deer hunting and population control is one that is complex and requires a delicate balance. Some call to open more public hunting land in Southeastern Michigan to allow for easier access to the sport and to better control the deer population where numbers are growing due to less space for them to live. However, the risks to hikers, cyclists and other users of open space is significant as well.

Between 2010 and 2018, 16 deaths and 86 non-fatal injuries were linked to hunters’ weapons, according to Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports analyzed by Bridge. In 2015 and 2016 there were not any hunter deaths reported; these were the only two years, at least since 1970, when that happened.

The $100K Home May Soon be a Dream of the Past in Southeastern Michigan

Housing prices continue to soar in the Metro-Detroit region, and beyond.  According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold was $154,160 in July of 2021; this was $1,560 higher than the average family dwelling price in June. Furthermore, the July 2021 price was an increase of $21,700 from July of 2020 and $56,030 from July of 2014. This means, that the average single-family dwelling was being sold for under $100,000 in 2014. The data below shows how pressed a homebuyer would be to find a home for such a price in 2019 (most recent American Community Survey), meaning it is even more difficult today.

According to the 2019 ACS data, Wayne County had the highest percentage of owner-occupied units that were valued at less than $100,000 at 44.8 percent. The percentage of owner-occupied homes valued at less than $100,000 available in Wayne County in 2019 was 24 percent less than what was available five years prior (2014). Wayne County experienced the smallest decline in owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000, while Oakland County experienced the largest. In 2019, 12.5 percent of the owner-occupied units in Oakland County were valued at less than $100,000. That number is a 47 percent decrease in the percentage of owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000 in 2014—five years prior.

While Oakland County had the largest decline in the percentage of owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000 between 2014 and 2019, it was Livingston County that had the smallest percentage of owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000 both in 2014 and 2019. In 2019, 8 percent of Livingston County’s owner-occupied housing stock was valued at less than $100,000 and in 2014 it was 14 percent (still the lowest in the region).

Overall, the data shows some of what we already know—particularly that housing prices continue to increase, and at a more rapid rate than in previous years. However, we also know that wages are not increasing with the rate of inflation, and for many, with the rate of increased home prices. As affordable housing continues to remain an issue, it is important to understand where those gaps are also growing at an increased rate. The data shows that, regionally, Wayne County had the largest percentage of homes available for under $100,000, with the number available decreasing at the slowest rate.

Public Corruption Continues to Grow in Southeastern Michigan

Metro-Detroit is not unfamiliar with public corruption. At least once a year, but usually more often than that, a public corruption cases surfaces in Southeastern Michigan that involves a public official. Recent headlines have been focused on several public officials, including four from the Detroit City Council, three from the Detroit Police Department and three from Macomb County. These charges have surfaced over the last year or so, and have only driven the total number of public corruption cases that can be accounted for in the last four years. In total, there have been at least 32 public corruption charges since 2016 in Southeastern Michigan that involve either an elected official or a public employee. When including public contractors that number rises to about 40.

Most recently, investigations involve Detroit City Councilmembers Andre Spivey, Janee Ayers and Scott Benson. Last week, Andre Spivey pled guilty to federal bribery charges and admitted he and an aide received almost $36,000 in bribes. This case involving Spivey is connected to a larger investigation related to its towing operations. Ayers and Benson have not been charged with any crimes, however their homes have been raided in connection with this broad FBI investigation, according to news reports. The chief of staffs for Ayers and Benson are also included in this investigation but have not been charged. Since Ayers, Benson and their chief of staffs have not been charged with any crimes they were not included in the total number of regional corruption cases since 2016.

In addition to members of the Detroit City Council being investigated for possible crimes related to public corruption tied to City towing policies, so are three members of the Detroit Police Department. According to news reports from the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, at least three members of the Detroit Police Department are suspected of accepting bribes from towing industry figures; no charges have been filed so these unnamed individuals were also not included in the regional public figure count.

In addition,  former Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland pled guilty to misconduct in office in May of 2021, and he resigned from City Council following the plea. Leland’s guilty plea stemmed from him being indicted on federal bribery charges and a felony misconduct in office charge for accepting $15,000 in cash and free car repairs in exchange for his vote on a land deal, according to the FBI. Leland admitted to accepting the cash when he pled guilty.

As corruption charges continue to surface in Detroit, public information from the FBI, news sources and local court documents shows that there have been at least 15 public corruption cases involving Detroit councilmembers or Detroit staffers; this number does not include contractors or business figures who have been involved in these corruption cases. In Wayne County (excluding Detroit), since 2016, there have been four public corruption charges. Wayne County, including Detroit, has the highest number of public corruption charges in the region, and the state, followed by Macomb County.

In Macomb County, the recent names making headlines for alleged public corruption are former Macomb County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Smith, former Macomb County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Ben Liston and suspended Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Derek Miller. Miller recently asked for the misconduct in office and conspiracy to commit a legal in an illegal manner charges against him to be dropped. This request came because, according to news reports, Miller’s attorney claims there was no criminal intent with his interaction related to the larger case of alleged misuse of forfeiture funds by Smith. The charges still currently stand against Miller though, and Liston pled guilty to embezzlement charges for improper use of forfeiture funds in September of 2021. With this plea he is required to testify against Smith if requested to do so.

As for Smith, he pled guilty to a federal obstruction of justice charge for covering up theft from his campaign fund. While he pled guilting to this federal corruption charge in January of 2021, he has yet to be sentenced, in part because of his ongoing public corruption case with the State Attorney General’s Office. At the state level, Smith has been charged with five counts of embezzlement by a public official, one count conducting a federal enterprise, official misconduct in office, tampering with evidence in a civil proceeding, accessory after the fact to embezzlement by a public official and one count conspiracy to commit forgery, according to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. Smith’s felony charges from the Michigan Attorney General’s Office are all in relation to alleged misuse of forfeiture funds. The initial charges against Smith were the state charges and occurred in March of 2020, and the federal charges came in September of 2020.

Since 2016 there have been 10 public officials from Macomb County, either the County organization itself or a municipality within its boundaries, who have been charged with alleged public corruption crimes. There are also cases tied to contractors and overall public corruption cases in Macomb County, that were not included in these counts. Many of the cases are related the Rizzo Environmental Services federal case that entangled elected officials, public employees and business figures who owned the business and worked with it.

No other county in the region or the state has had as many corruption cases the as Wayne and Macomb counties. Since 2016 there has been two public corruption cases in Oakland County and one in St. Clair County; no other county in the region has had any cases come to light.

Corruption cases have long riddled the Metro-Detroit region and in an upcoming post we will detail the ones that have been brought to the public eye since 2016. With more likely in the works, it is important to note that strong local journalism, citizen involvement in local government and an understanding of who is being elected can help reduce corruption cases. Of course, the fix is much more complicated than that, and this too will be explored at a later date.

Michigan’s Congressional Districts to Change Soon

The new Congressional district maps for Michigan have not been finalized, but drafts are in the works, and districts are certain to change.

First off, the process in which Congressional and State House and State Senate districts are drawn has changed. Prior to 2018, the Michigan State Legislature redrew districts using population and demographic data from the US Census Bureau. This process was inherently political and lead to gerrymandered districts, as we highlighted in one of our earliest posts.

Come 2018, a change was mandated when Michigan voters approved the creation of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. This Commission, which has been regularly meeting and taking public input over the last several months, is led by a bi-partisan citizen group. The MICRC is composed of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents.

Another change regarding the mapping of Congressional districts was then announced in 2020—Michigan would lose a seat in the US House Representatives-dropping from 14 to 13—due to a shift in population. This is the fifth time in a row Michigan has lost a Congressional seat. This is because that other states have gained substantially more population than Michigan.

 In addition to Michigan losing a Congressional seat so did California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia. The states that gained a single seat are: Colorado, Oregon, Montana, North Carolina and Florida. Texas gained two Congressional seats.

The map below shows the percent change in population between 2010 and 2020, according to the Census Bureau. And, while the map doesn’t highlight a significant population loss for Michigan it does show how other areas throughout the country are experiencing more rapid population growth while we remain increased only slightly.

Current MICRC proposals that affect Southeastern Michigan include Oakland County being included in five Congressional districts, as opposed to the four it is currently included in, Wayne County in three or four districts, as opposed to the two it is currently located in, and Macomb County being stretched amongst three or four districts, as opposed to the two it is currently in. All of these are still proposed, and non-finalized, maps of course. But this means shakeups for current members of Michigan’s Congressional Delegation. For example, a proposed map shows that current Congressman Andy Levin and current Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence could be living in the same district. Another proposed shift is for the 10th District, which could include parts of Oakland, Macomb and Genesee counties. The current Congress members who represent parts of that new proposed district are Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly), Dan Kildee (D-Flint) and Lisa McClain (R-Bruce Township). If that proposal were to move forward those current members of Congress could all be vying against each other in the election process.


According to the criteria approved by voters when they approved the MICRC, new district maps must:
·        Comply with the U.S. Voting Rights Act and be of equal population;
·        Be geographically contiguous;
·        Reflect the state’s diverse population and communities of interest;
·        Not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party;
·        Not favor or disfavor an incumbent;
·        Respect county/municipal borders;
·        Be reasonably compact.
 
While Michigan’s population has changed minimally, there still have been population shifts internally, which will also impact the new Congressional districts.
For example, St. Clair County lost 1.6 percent of its population and Wayne County lost 1.5 percent of its population between 2010 and 2020, while Washtenaw County experienced about an 8 percent population increase, and Livingston County experienced about a 7.5 percent population increase. While Congressional seats don’t include just one county, understanding where the State’s population has shifted does help shed light on how the districts may shift.

The final Congressional District maps will go into play for the 2022 election. Three maps for final consideration must be chosen by the MICRC on Oct. 1, 2021. To leave a comment on the proposed maps or the process visit here.