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NBER the national educational radio network presents special of the week. This is the fifth of the 7 1/2 hour radio documentary programs on Metropolitan Government prepared for broadcast by the capital cities broadcast station in Detroit WJR. The producer and director is Oscar for Annette WJR new it's the title for this series. Is there a better way. To get the sound of children at play. People that play. Few people would deny the need for recreation playgrounds parks beaches but it costs money. One agency alone has spent more than 60 million dollars to provide regional parks in southeast Michigan. A vital service for urban people. Planned and executed on a
regional or metropolitan basis. Is there a better way. Park authorities bridge authorities water districts sewer districts hospital authorities garbage districts special tax districts to pay for services the city's have no money to provide. Los Angeles has two hundred forty six. How many can you count in the Detroit area. Number five in our series of special reports on local government reorganisation turns the spotlight on regional governors. When the municipality is unable to provide the necessities of life the vital services such as water sewerage transportation recreation. It turns to the state or federal government for help. But there is another route they special tax district. Usually it's made up of a number of localities banding together
to tackle a specific problem. Maybe it's drainage or the need for water or a community college or hospitals or transportation or recreation sometimes the county can act as the coordinating agent among municipalities. Sometimes a group of counties. A good example is the here in Clinton metropolitan authority in southeast Michigan created back in the early 40s to develop regional parks for the five counties of Wayne Oakland McComb Washington and Livingston. The authorities director Kenneth Hollenbeck says the organization is one of a kind. Well I don't know of any other organization such as this. Akron has Akron Ohio has sort of a regional agency. Cleveland has. Something quite similar but really we get letters from all over the world and that isn't an exaggeration. Sometimes we have difficulty in translating the letters. The question that they ask is how did the people of
these five counties ever vote on a thing as massive as this and have a passable favorably on it when in their locality from wherever these letters come and many come from around the United States. How did you ever do it we can't get to unity government to go together on re sewers and water and everything else how did it ever happen. So we have prepared some releases to try to explain how it happened. It actually was a lot of interested people banding together to make it possible. It wasn't politics. It wasn't money it was. But experts citizens there here in Clinton metropolitan authority gets a quarter mail from each of the five counties it serves. That brings in more than 3 million dollars annually. What has been done with this money we have now a little over 17000 acres in the five counties. Of course that's concentrated such as in Kensington of forty three hundred acres into Stony Creek Park with about thirty five hundred acres with another 500 that we are sure of getting because it's
already covered by a legal agreement. Metropolitan beach just under 600 acres downstream in the here and river from Kensington Park to Livingston and Washington our county we own another couple of thousand acres and then we jump past Ann Arbor Nissa Lanty and get down into the lower reaches of the Huron downstream from Bellville. And thanks to the federal assistance under the open space program in the land and water conservation program it's accelerated our land purchase and we are just about done in acquiring the willow metropolitan Park which is a new name probably do you as well as the using public. But I think I might mention here that interestingly enough we have already in their four and a half miles of a road we have two comfort stations nearing completion and we hope to open that in 1069 are people really making use of these parks. Kensington Park for instance. By the end of this year will reach its
usual of attendance of about two million two million people. Stoney Creek being new We've only had it open about four years but the people soon discovered it and we'll have as we have this year on the number of Sundays and holidays. Over 35000 people in Stoney Creek metropolitan beach being smaller but concentrated will undoubtedly have in the neighborhood of a million and a half. Using that now as you go down the Huron River again the attendance in the Hudson Mills the NRA people who would recognize these names Adele high and next to here and there are small but it still adds up to thousands lower here and which has a swimming pool and beautiful picnic areas. Nature study area and part of a golf course that sort of thing. That will be well over a million by the end of this year. Now when we open we'll we think we'll get additional people or perhaps spread
those out that are now concentrated in lower your own or other parks there is a difference between city parks and regional parks as we learned from Mr. Hollenbeck we are generally serving the people in an area perhaps of 30 miles from the park they will go that far for an afternoon and that is the difference between ourselves as a regional authority and a local authority. We say our parks are for day use and not overnight but for day use where the people expect to spend a half a day. It averages about four hours according to our surveys. If they have less time than that to use they'll go to a local park such as the Edward and Hines drive of Wayne County or the lower Rouge or other nearby local parks. So. We have checked it out. Interestingly enough with a population base being in Wayne County where most of our people are. We have checked that out to about 60 to
70 percent of the users of Kensington Park are Wayne County residents not necessarily Detroit or Highland Park in Hamtramck but Wein County there here in Clinton metropolitan authority has been in operation for roughly 25 years. How much money has it spent the total tax money. Let's call it the total money we have some revenue producing facilities we rent boats and we sell hot dogs and hamburgers and we have a few golf courses and I want those sort of things but we have spent. The public money one way or another since inception in 1940 to somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million dollars. Now in Washington maybe that isn't big money but there was a lot of money in 25 years. Creating a park involves quite a bit more than just buying the land for instance at Willow. We took bids just. At our last board meeting for a water system where you can turn thirty five forty five thousand people loose on
an area call of the park or by whatever other name without comfort stations without water and without parking facilities and that water system alone which is not the total system for the new Willow Park was over $90000. The finding and acquiring suitable park property remains a problem. And if southeast Michigan were starting today to purchase the Seventeen thousand acres of park land now and use how much would it cost. Oh brother that would be startling. I think it is interesting however that Kensington Park the average price per acre paid for that was about $200. Imagine our new Stoney Creek Park will average and we are about done in buying land out there that will run more nearly $700 an acre. Metropolitan beach was an underwater subdivision and some of that had to be condemned because of the owners being all over the world
that ran. Some were in the neighborhood of $500 and here we are buying the new Willow Park about done with that and the oak woods which is in the flat rock. Bellevale area that will run somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars an acre. There is a law of diminishing returns here too. As more parks are developed a greater portion of the allotted tax money must go for maintenance. We have a total payroll of about 225 people that's everyone from the director down to the engineering landscape architects park maintenance people and certainly we. He did you know close the doors when Labor Day comes. People are still going out to the parks we have our own police force which we maintain a our own surveillance entirely at our expense. We get the cooperation of the Michigan state police and the sheriffs of each of the county in fact our park rangers are deputized by the county sheriff in each of the appropriate counties so that all
represents dollars expenditure of funds because otherwise if we didn't patrol our parks and take care of them and when this roof starts to leak or you'll be a fix it before it leaks it at all costs money. They're here in Clinton metropolitan authority it stands as an example of what can be accomplished through an authority or special tax district. It's not necessarily typical. Some are a constant source of corruption. But it's one way of creating a regional agency. Is there a better way. The chairman of the outgoing Oakland County Board of Supervisors Deloss Hamlin. I've always been concern myself with authorities. Once I thought it was appointed it became becomes an autonomy that entity of its own the people that's responsible who are responsible for the appropriations but the operations of it. Are within the membership of the authority so often at your authority
members with the administrating this type of program forget where their responsibility lies. I don't believe that authorities are. A practical way I would think them more practical thing with the new laws that we have had passed that allows into a governmental contractual arrangement with inner governmental cooperation and in a governmental contractual arrangements you can keep your control within the responsible people. That are elected to meet the needs of their citizenry. The chairman of the Oakland County Board of auditors Daniel T Murphy is even more specific. I do not argue with the hearing that the cop in that program. I think that they built good parks but it is a metropolitan kind of government not the people are not elected by
anybody. They're appointed by somebody yet they spend millions of dollars every year because they get a quarter of a mile out of the six counties in southeastern Michigan for the building of parks. I think that's wrong. I think that if you're going to spend tax dollars you ought to be elected so that somebody can say to you you are not spending my dollars the way I think you want to and if enough people say this out you go. That's that's the kind of government that this nation was founded on it's kind of government we ought to continue to have the director of the here and Clinton metropolitan authority kind of Hollenbeck says if his agency had not been created it's doubtful the Regional Parks would have been developed because I'd be the first to admit that the answer to all prayers is not to form an authority but I think well yes let's use Kensington Park as an example then the park planners use the topography available. And that happens at the county line goes through this area of the original currently to 60 acres
was almost destroyed the Oakland Livingston County line. So using the valley as the Valley of the Huron River as it goes up north and northeast toward Brighton is not there because of political boundaries it's there because the Lord gave us the topography the hills the the water and so forth. The same a delicate thing happened in Stony Creek by a strange coincidence. The Oakland McComb County line goes through the west side of the new Stoney Creek Park. If there was not a here in Clinton I feel sure that neither of those parks would have happened if a service is being provided. Do you as a taxpayer really care who provides it. I think the public sometime look at public agencies everyone has an axe to grind. Well I don't think that's necessarily true I think the accomplishments and I'm seeing this boastfully of that here in Clinton. I think the finger does point to here in Clinton where these
things are actually here and in public use and are being accepted by the public. I would doubt that very many of our park users know what here in Clinton is or do they care really. We laugh about people going to Kensington Park and they say well I'm going out there or I've been to Kensington State Park. Well of course it isn't the state park but do we care Of course we don't and neither do they care. They're in a park they like to live wouldn't return but here is a public facility supported by themselves which does the job intended. We hope so. How many authorities or special districts are there in southeast Michigan. Another good question for a quiz would be. Name the directors of each of the monies Wayne State University political scientist Louis Friedland says the special tax district is not a particularly good way. The addition of special districts we have some 18 or so in southeastern Michigan and Detroit metropolitan area
sensually Is that still another level of government is created and a level of government which is not generally understood or recognized by the average citizen I'm quite sure our listeners would be hard put to indicate who or what kind of governing body each of these special districts and authorities possessed and I'm sure that almost no one would know the director of any of these 18. That's an indicator. Mission of one of the problems in dealing with a large number of special districts although incidentally they are increasing because we already have townships villages cities school districts counties and that we have now added to still another layer another level and this is certainly not a particularly good way to run the. Organization. Authorities in special districts of mushrooms all over the country to supply water sewers airports transit systems you name it.
California has spawned a goodly number as I mentioned earlier Los Angeles s two hundred forty six of them. The former city manager of Burbank California the Robert Turner is now the executive director of the southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Mr. Turner feels that a trend toward more authorities is a trend away from government responsive to the people. One of the real difficulties with the emergence of the of the authorities is that is that they are not terribly close to the people and we can use Los Angeles as an example of this. There is in Los Angeles for example the Metropolitan Water District. One of its recent bond issues amounted to close to a million. I mean a billion dollars. I I would seriously doubt that very many citizens that ever attended one of their legislative sessions and if they did attend they'd have a very hard time even being recognized much less
speak or have any influence on the action of the board. The board of directors there is not liked it its appointed. It is. It is well removed from the people and it is making decisions which spend literally billions of the taxpayers dollars. Now you if you if you consider that single instance and multiply add in the various other functional areas. Imagine the plight of the citizen 10 years from now as these things evolve and develop in order to have any kind of control over his destiny. He would have to go from below the postern door to door attempting to. Good to have some kind of response from a host of different agencies a host is providing him with a host of of the Specialized Services University of Michigan political science professor Arthur Brummagem was one of those involved in
the study of southeast Michigan sponsored by the Detroit metropolitan fund which led to the creation of the Council of Governments Brummagem also worked on a national study of authorities. He says the Detroit area is not plagued by the thought is like some parts of the country. Detroit has not been jolted as of fairly by the authority darken its own environment or pollen areas. I think that we were quite confident of this problem of authorities and the Metropolitan Fund report. We recognized that there were certain problems like transportation that probably had to be met by by the authority doctrine. But we wanted to and I do think we make some cautions in that report about going too far and and just siphoning off so many functions and authorities that before you know it you want to have a general government laugh then you can you can destroy your general government by too many Authority just as much as you can in a certain
sense subsume your your home rule studies into a super government. And that's the nub of it right there. Strengthening local units of government so that they can cope with common problems and yet be careful not to destroy what you're attempting to strengthen. What are the alternatives. Well the first is to do nothing and let things go on as they have. That would almost inevitably mean growing federalism because the national government can't pass the buck any higher. Another alternative is the creation of metropolitan governments. Political scientists until now have generally agreed that this route was not politically feasible. Detroit attorney and a member of the Detroit Board of Education elves were dealing says the political climate may be changing. Well what is politically feasible is shaped by that. A lot of things happened since the riots in Detroit and other cities which. Didn't happen before the riots I'm not suggesting that
riots are desirable but when you ask what is politically feasible it depends on what happens to make things feasible. If the trend which obviously is continuing developing. A separate black inner city surrounded by a new set of white suburbs with the suburbs being the more affluent citizens including as time goes on and some affluent blacks relatively small percentage and inner city being private predominantly people who have a no. Economic base then you're creating an impossible situation that we are forced to cope with that by contemplating the kind of merge merger of common interests of all units of government the greater metropolitan area
which might not have been possible in the past. The course which has been chosen in the Detroit area is a loose federation of local governments coming together voluntarily to form a council of governments to provide a forum where common problems may be tackled on a co-operative basis. The idea is not new. Our next programme in this series on local government reorganization will be devoted entirely to some cog or southeast Michigan Council of Government. But right now we're trying to show that local government has been going regional for some time through authorities and special districts and also through less formal cooperation units between units of government in the field of education there is such a thing as the Intermediate School District in Oakland County Dr. William Emerson is superintendent of Oakland schools of fish. Under the terms of Michigan law receives a certain amount of state aid according to a formula. It has some limited powers to
levy taxes according to the general property tax law. It has some charter provisions that have been adopted by the voters so that taxes can be levied for specific things such as the education of handicapped children Indi construction and operation of locational education facilities and high school level. The office also airs the power to sell services to other school districts. We only exercise that prerogative of selling in the instance of our data processing operation where the constituents who use it are billed for the work that the computer does for the installation of data processing equipment has streamlined a number of functions in Oakland schools such as a payroll accounts receivable tests general ledger school census and Romans and so on.
But the purchase of computer equipment is a costly proposition. It wouldn't be economically feasible for a school district to do this by themselves. Our largest school district has 24000 students. Now it's cool to educating twenty four thousand students as it is a good sized school if it's not too big yet because they can get too big. And of course it's not too small and it can do. Like I resold ninety nine and forty four hundred percent of its work and that's just the way it ought to be. What we probably do is 56 100 percent of that school district work. The centralized data processing can be extended beyond the county. It occurred to us a couple of years ago that the job that we had to do with his computer was not an unusual job.
In fact it was a job that the city Detroit school system would have to do. We knew that it was a job at the Wayne County intermediate school to get a do and it was a job at the McAllen County Intermediate School District had and it occurred to us that it would be just plain silly as well as wasteful for us to do it for Detroit to do it. We're going to do it for one county to do it. Particularly when the when the job to be done is a very straightforward school center job. So we proposed that a consortium be formed of these four big units that contain incidentally as the children of the state and see if we could get the federal government to fund the jointer and the federal government did. And so a consortium was formed. We started out with a hundred thousand dollars worth of hard money of our own for Mobile County.
The next year the federal government came along with six hundred thousand dollars. We have a consortium It's called IRS the integrated educational information system. This group has offices separate from any of us done on the nine mile road someplace. We have a meeting of the consortium principals once a month we had a meeting this morning. I was there the other servants were there. We set policies for the consortium Lone Ranger range. We hold the consortium employees accountable. To do the work the way we want it done we're looking forward after the federal money is gone to continue funding the consortium because none of us ever want to go it alone again. Now there is no way that a particular school district can be forced to join this consortium. There's no way you can force it. But it just doesn't make any sense for
McCollum or Oakland or Detroit or Wing County to go it alone. Dr. Emerson has discovered that interesting things can happen through this cooperative effort. Yesterday my board met my board one of the bill. There was a bill there to the Ingham County Intermediate School District check for $2000 more to raise the question. What in blazes are you paying the little old Ingham County intermediate school to treat $2000 for. Answer check stock you know checks to print in the computer. Why are you buying $2000 worth of checks through Ingham County. Answer Ingham County has a terminal on our equipment. Ingham County is a member of our association of users which uses the equipment and tells us how they want to use it. We have decided to cooperate if we purchase farms that the computer reach up by the yard. Bits were taken and the director of data processing got a better
Special of the week
Issue 11-1969
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Special of the week; Issue 11-1969,” 1969-02-20, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 7, 2021,
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APA: Special of the week; Issue 11-1969. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from