Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Shopping

I know everyone is out and about doing their last minute shopping for friends and family. I hope you are thinking of our local businesses and all the wonderful goodies they are selling. When you shop locally your dollars have a much higher ratio of ending up reinvested in our community. Also for those of you who haven't had a chance to stop by 212 Arts Center Holiday Sale, it is still going on through this Saturday. The sale hours are 10am-6pm and they have a diverse offering of handcrafted items, ranging from beautiful pottery, paintings, to jewelry and hand-knitted items.
Wishing everyone a fantastic holiday season and a very happy and successful new year!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Yesterday my daughter and I, along with many members of the Saline community, said goodbye to an amazing woman. Woodie Merchant was a friend, a mentor, and one of my heroes. As was attested to during her memorial ceremony she touched many lives in a wonderful way. I first met her during her stint as a "cub" reporter (at the age of 60+) at council mtgs when I got elected to council in 1993. She brought so much to our community with her vision, passion, and determination. Instrumental in the consolidation of our school system (one room schools), expansion of the Methodist Church, library system and welcome wagon writer, she made all of us feel so special while doing so much for our community. She was our spark plug...and she will be missed. Thank you Woodie, for being in my life.
And as I said goodbye,
Yesterday afternoon the Center for Michigan and Business Leaders for Michigan Common Sense Reform Summit was held in Lansing. It was developed to discuss how to significantly change Michigan and bring forward ideas that will make our economy stronger and our state more competitive for new investment and talent. Panelists discussed public sector efficiency, making Michigan competitive, and investing in our future. The final panelists were 2011 legislative leadership and Governor-Elect Rick Snyder finished the afternoon. We have a new governor that is ready and excited to get to work. The leadership in the legislature said they want to work together for Michigan and not continue in the previous negative partisan manner. We have much work to do as a state...we are a state of citizens and each and every one of us was asked by this leadership to contribute. So I share the message..don't think of one(self), think of all, that is the real answer to how Michigan will work again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Transportation Funding Crisis

Do you know that our transportation system is failing? Did you know that when you pay for gas you pay 19c/gal not a percentage of total sales (while mpg increases every year)? Did you know that Michigan has the 7th largest road system and its funding is in the bottom 10 states in the country? Did you know that next year when you buy gas and pay the federal portion of taxes it will not be coming back to Michigan because we do not have enough money to make the required match (it will go to other states that fund their system sufficiently)? Did you know there is a bill awaiting action to increase our state gas tax 4c to provide some of the necessary investment in our system? How much have gas prices varied in the last week? This is an economic development issue, we cannot compete for jobs if we have failing infrastructure.
I recently had the opportunity to testify at the House Transportation Committee public hearing at Washtenaw Community College (see below). Tuesday is a Transportation Funding Rally Day-we need our legislators to act before they adjourn for the summer. Please call them today!!


Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today regarding the state of transportation funding. I am Gretchen Driskell, Mayor of the City of Saline. Over the past decade, I have served in many policy roles in transportation planning. Currently, I am a vice chair with SEMCOG. I also was chair of SEMCOG Transportation Advisory Council and current member, and served as chair and the MML appointee to the Citizens Advisory Council for the Transportation Funding Task Force (TF2). I am our cities representative to WATS (our county transportation planning agency) and a former chair of that organization. Additionally, I served on both the MML and the National League of Cities Transportation Policy committees and I am currently on the National League of Cities board of trustees. I work as a commercial real estate broker recruiting national and international business to the region. The reason I tell you all this is to make clear that I have a valid comprehension of the state of our transportation system and the crisis we have created by not taking action regarding additional funding to this system.

In Saline, we have been fortunate to have our Ford/Visteon, now ACH facility (1.5M sf), remain open during this automotive roller coaster ride. The city has an excellent relationship with management and we worked closely with Ford as they transitioned the closing and consolidation of 2 other facilities into ours. That entailed a $100M investment on Fords’ part, which included adding 23 shipping docks. Last week they announced an additional $45M investment into the plant. Employment is at an all time high of 2,000. Why do I bring this up?

This facility now has 300 trucks going in and out of the plant every day. Onto a highway (US12) that has been documented for decades as being one of the most heavily travelled 2lane highways in the state. Ford has made a financial commitment to our state to the tune of $150M, why doesn’t the state step forward and make an investment in this vital economic corridor? I stood before this same committee 3 years ago when you held your public hearing and made very similar remarks. And there has still been no change to the underfunding of our transportation system.

The county has 2 very exciting transit initiatives underway. The Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail and the US23 Corridor commuter rail (aka WALLY). In my work as CAC chair I sat on the passenger intermodal committee. We studied transit systems across the country. We documented the additional private dollar investment that comes into communities around transit hubs and commuter rail lines. This investment ranged from $6-9 of private dollars for every $1 invested in the system. Additionally this has become a business recruitment issue. International companies look for transit to support their employees, our inability to provide this alternative mode of transport makes us less competitive in national searches.

I am sure you have heard by now all the statistics of where we stand vis-à-vis other states regarding transportation funding. How counties are cutting back to the minimum and just doing maintenance. How we are spending half of what is needed in this state to maintain our system let alone become competitive. How the longer we wait to fix roads the more expensive the fix becomes.

I just don’t understand the inability to do a minor increase in the gas tax. The price of gas can change more in one week than the proposed increase! The argument can be made in multiple ways that this is an investment that gets a high return. It is probably the clearest public infrastructure investment with an outcome of significant return of all the spending we do in Lansing. For at least the last three years we have been talking about 2010, the last year we will have enough money to match the federal dollars. This is money that our citizens have already paid into the system and in 2011 it will go to other states??

In March the NLC board met and Ray Lahood, secretary of transportation came to speak with us for about an hour. I know you are all aware that nationally our infrastructure is in crisis also. Secretary Lahood spoke to this issue. He made it clear that there is a commitment to improving the infrastructure at the federal level. He also made it clear that money would go to those regions that can provide the necessary match, those regions that are making a commitment to investing in their future. We have not shown that commitment.

I have been an elected official for 18 years, 12 years as mayor. I have lowered taxes and I have raised taxes. And I would certainly prefer to lower taxes. However, as leaders we have a responsibility to make the hard choices. As leaders, we study the issues and plan for the future of our state. That is what we are elected to do. This crisis will not go away, it will just get worse. After in depth study, the TF2 made a recommendation 18 months ago to increase the fuel taxes.

I urge you to take leadership on this issue, to make the responsible choice, move these bills forward and invest in our future.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Happenings

The elves have been out in preparation for the holiday season! Come see the twinkling lights and sparkling storefronts in Saline. This weekend (Dec 4th & 5th) there are lots of fun holiday activities in town. Friday we have the tree lighting ceremony downtown, the holiday tea party and Ele's place fundraiser (see our school administrators 'dance thru the decades') as part of the Moonlight Madness Craft Show (at the middle school), and on Saturday the holiday parade at 5:30. (I still miss the Christkindlmarket, sigh...). Last week as part of our city council meeting we adopted a resolution in support of the 3/50 initiative (you know I have been talking shop local for years....). Come revel in all the holiday cheer Saline has in store for you...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Commuity Volunteers

While we were waiting for the fair parade to begin I had the chance to meet some amazing people. They were gathered around colorful wooden carts, which were circling Harris Street in front of city hall. The local First United Methodist Church has started a project to build PETs. (aka Personal Empowerment Transportation). They are building these carts and sending them to disabled people living in poverty around the world. The stories they shared were so moving, I wanted everyone to learn about this great project. They talked about the shoe cobbler who stores his supplies in the back of his PET and can now earn a living. Or the disabled couple who now are able to be married because they can both make a living, every day he goes 3miles out to his farm field to harvest while she sells the produce at the market. Right here in Saline we are impacting lives far away. The group is looking for more volunteers and financial contributions. Their goal is to produce 1,000 PET's and change the world, one person at a time. And they are always looking for volunteers!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tuesday afternoon I biked in the memorial ride for our Saline resident Tim Pincikowski. Tim's death was a shock to our community and our hearts go out to his family. It was a very moving and somber experience to participate in. The ride provoked a lot of thought and discussion as you can see on the blog entries for the article.

In Saline we are now hosting a community bike ride once a month thanks to the healthy living coalition (Pick up the Pace, Saline aka PUPS) and PEAC. We are also working on the final pieces to a citywide nonmotorized transportation plan, which should be completed mid September. What other action items can we take to make the road a safer place for all? I bike regularly out Austin Road to Bridgewater for a quick workout. Biking is an important part of the healthy lifestyle we should all be able to participate in safely.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Looking for sunshine in Saline?

Okay, so it is taking a little longer to get those hot summer days we have been so longingly waiting for. If you walk into The Cobblestone Rose (101 S Ann Arbor St) you will find the interior design store that has fully embraced our summer longings. Bright colors, florals, and outdoor patio effects will inspire you to be patient for the delightful days to come. The owner, Karen Hodgson, started her business years ago with beautiful arrangements of dried flowers. She has expanded to support your creative urges through many different alternatives, interior design fabrics pieces, clothing, jewelry and everlasting florals. If you stop by for a visit, you will find friendly faces and styling inspirations. Have fun!!