Thomas Ivacko is an administrator and program manager at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at the Ford School. He also oversees the Michigan Public Policy Survey program, which conducts state-wide surveys of local government leaders.
>> Michigan under Governor Snyder's leadership has just changed the way that they provide our revenue share into local governments. It used to be kind of a formula based system with minor adjustments each year. They've changed that now to use revenue sharing as incentive funds, in an attempt to foster local government reform. They are attempting to foster local reform in a number of ways. The first focus is on accountability and transparency, hoping to boost the accountability at the local level and they're doing this by having local governments create what are called performance dashboards. These present indicators of key aspects of local government performance, and they place these things on their website and make it very easy for citizens to find information. These performance dashboards cover a pretty wide variety of aspects of local government. They get at issues like fiscal stability, so tracking indicators such as the general fund expenditures per capita or debt load per capita, they get at aspects of public safety so violent crimes per capita, or property crimes per capita and to get at aspects of quality of life, so they track things like the number of acres of park land. Our most recent survey and we survey local leaders across the state, from all county, cities, townships and villages. Our most recent survey looked at their views on this innovative policy reform and what we find is that the reforms are working, at least at their most immediate, which is having local governments adopt the dashboards. So only some local governments are eligible for the State funding, and 90% of those local governments have adopted dashboards. Among the other group of local governments, those that were not eligible, only 26% have. Despite the fact that 90% of these jurisdictions are adopting dashboards, most local leaders don't have much faith that they're really make much of a difference; not in terms of accountability and transparency or in our ability to benchmark against other jurisdictions or even to improve their overall performance.