MML Core Training Recap

by Jaime Greene on March 9, 2012

MML Core Training Recap

Wow this was an exciting training session.  I love the statement, “you don’t know what you don’t know”, and it was great to learn the things I didn’t know about.  There are so many aspects to government that it truly takes a team of folks to make sure it is all covered.  The MML training was enlightening, education, and important for me to attend.  I know we (Councilors) are almost like “volunteers”, but government leaders are unable to properly “lead” unless they are constantly being educated, reminded, trained, have concepts reinforced, and clarified, and are fully kept abreast of law changes and state mandates.


This training did not cost the City any money as I applied for a scholarship and won it, in addition used coupons that my family earned to pay for the hotel!


First I will explain what the Michigan Municipal League (MML) is.  Next I will briefly break out the topics that were presented and the concepts I took away from them.


The MML Mission Statement:


Better communities. Better Michigan.

The Michigan Municipal League is the one clear voice for Michigan communities.  Our goals are to aid them in creating desirable and unique places through legislative and judicial advocacy; to provide educational opportunities for elected and appointed officials; and to assist municipal leaders in administering community services.  Our mission is that of a non-profit, but we act with the fervor of entrepreneurs to passionately push change for better communities and a better Michigan.  If you would like more information about MML please visit their web page at:



The training topics were:

  • Fundamentals of Planning & Zoning
  • The Center for 21st Century Communities (favorite topic)
  • Effective Public Service-Essential Duties & Responsibilities
  • Fundamentals of Organizations: What’s a City a Village and What does it do?
  • Fundamentals of Financial Management

Fundamentals of Planning & Zoning:

To live in a city you are living in a “built” environment.  There are specific laws that cities are required to follow and procedures for planning and zoning.  The tool that we need to rely on the most when considering our “built” environment is our Master Plan (click on words for a link to ours).  The Master Plan is the City’s statement of policy looking towards the future.  Topics should include, transportation, housing, land use, recreation, capital facilities, capital improvements, special areas, business district, economic development, and anything unique to our community to set the vision for our future…a road map to follow.


There is a process to follow when developing the Master Plan.  The entire community is involved when creating it.  The Plan is there to show what is important to the community, what the community values, what issues are important, goals for the community, and what we need to do to set those priorities, create policies, generalized ideas and how we are going to achieve those goals.


Much more detail was discussed about the nuts and bolts of planning and zoning but the most important concept I took away is use the Master Plan when making decisions, don’t build crap, and have a vision for the future; what you are building will long survive you.



The Center for 21st Century Communities 21c3: (favorite topic)

I am very excited to introduce this topic to Council and the Economic Development Commission.  The 21st Century Community is to create a community not for the past 50 years but for the next 50 years.  Here is a link to the MML’s 21c3 webpage.


We now live in a global economy and we have mobile population.  Folks are now looking for a “place” not just a job.  In Richmond we need to ensure we have a “place” that attracts people to live, play, shop, and work.  It is more about “place” than design. Communities are built around happiness and well-being.  Focus is on excellence not mediocrity.  It is about accessibility, activities, comfort, and sociability.  What can we do to leverage our assets?


When a community has diminished services folks don’t want to live there. Being more fiscally responsible does not necessarily make you community more desirable.

The outcome is to achieve a vibrant downtown.

The 8 pillars of a 21c3 are:

  • Physical design & walkability
  • Green initiatives
  • Cultural economic development
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Multiculturalism
  • Messaging & technology
  • Transit
  • Education

This is just a touch of this topic as I “flesh” it out more as to how it will fit with Richmond I will keep you posted.


Effective Public Service-Essential Duties & Responsibilities:

Set vision for the community!  HUMILITY, we are there to serve the folks that elected you.  We exist to provide for the needs of the constituents.  We are not a rule of men, we are a rule of law society. Budget: unless clear goals are set, even for survival mode, how can a body achieve the objectives it has set out to do?  Our city is where we have invested our lives.


“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus” MLK


Fundamentals of Organizations:

What’s a City a Village and What does it do?

Don’t lose sight of a very simple principal.  The State has granted us permission what to do.  We can only do what the Charter states we can do.  We also discussed the relationship between the State and the City.  The State Constitution is a “limiting” document meaning in loose terms the State Government can do “anything” unless the Constitution and laws states that it can not.  Local government is the opposite.  Our Charters are written as to what we can do.  It is as if we have to ask for permission to do “something”.  It is “stinky” the State really grants us the power to do what we do and can take it away.


Fundamentals of Financial Management:

Accountability, Accountability, Accountability, Transparency!!!

When setting the budget think Policy

  • Where is the money going?  How are you being held accountable to the tax payers?
  • Adopt a budget.  It is in our State’s Constitution that we must adopt a balanced budget.
  • The budget is broken out into different “Funds” – General Fund- Police, Fire, DPW, Recreation
  • Special Funds – Water, Sewer, Act51 special assessments, DDA, TIFA, Cable TV
  • Property Taxes make up most of the “revenues”
  • Property taxes are computed by millages or a Mil
  • A millage is a rate of tax expressed per $1000 of taxable value. (Taxable value is usually half of the market value of a property) One mil equals $1 for every $1,000 of taxable property value.
  • The equation would be as follows: Millage x Taxable Value = Tax rate owed (I am still struggling with the math on this one and would love to have one of our “experts” explain this more.
Taxable Value x .036.9 = Taxes


The City’s FY 2011-12 Budget maintains a general operating ad valorem property tax levy of 16.6526 mills (Only City of Richmond).  That is just want the City charges as you can see there are many other entities that add much more to your taxes which makes my current homestead tax rate 36.9

Property Tax Calculator


I have included a screen shot of my taxes.  This is all public information.  As a service to our residents the City subscribes to an online software system.  Here is the link I encourage you to check your information out:


A side note on my approach to a budget:

In order to set a budget you need a plan, this is where I refer back to “The Master Plan”.  It is in the Master Plan where goals and objectives have been set. It is through those goals priorities are set as what you want to accomplish, then funds should be dispersed accordingly.  If you don’t have a plan, how do you know where to spend the money?


There came a point where I just had to stop with this document and just post it.  I am leaning everyday; even the concepts I learned at this training I still ponder and new revelations are given and concepts are made clearer.  It is essential that elected officials keep learning, whether it is through training sessions like this one, webinars, news articles, memberships to different organizations; the key is don’t get stale, keep the ideas fresh, thoughts flowing and share them with your team (aka other Council Members, residents, and City Staff).




In service,

Jaime Elizabeth Greene

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginny MaComber March 10, 2012 at 12:03 am

I really enjoy your posts. Can’t wait for the next one.


buzzsaw March 10, 2012 at 9:46 am

I’m concerned about the so-called 21c3, Is seems to be pushing more recreation, in other words more government, more taxes to pay for it, and an advocacy of how we should live. I briefly look at some of these “pillars”. Some of them are innocuous but others leave me with many questions as to what the end game is. You can be Sure I will be looking into this more. I do know one thing, people in this city are less concerned about the recreation we have then having a safe and clean place to live. Just saying.


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