This evening’s State of the State address will afford newly elected Gov. Jennifer Granholm an opportunity to rally all Michigan residents behind her agenda, and it is incumbent upon her to clearly delineate her goals for growth and development in the state. Granholm’s proposed Office of Smart Growth is an excellent idea which indicates her comprehension that Michigan must coordinate its development efforts in order to revitalize the economy, protect the environment and reduce the tremendous debt left by her predecessor.

However, not everyone will readily accede this point. Granholm can successfully accomplish the difficult and unenviable task of appealing to all of the state’s various interests – many of which have been conditioned to believe that investment in one region will necessarily come at the expense of another – by first explaining that her new initiative would save all tax payers money.

Unbridled highway expansion has already cost the state too much in requisite maintenance. The continued growth of roads and communities served by those arteries will only drive up the state’s budget. Furthermore, the infrastructural extensions and subsequent maintenance needed in developed areas are more costly than those in rural sections of the state, oftentimes by roughly 43 percent. Thus, Michigan would be best served to promote a system of infill growth and rehabilitation of dilapidated areas instead of allowing Greeley-like expansion. And that is before mentioning the environmental cost of Michigan’s sprawling growth.

Michigan’s rate of environment-related cancer cases has risen from one in 1,000,000 to one in 100,000. The state continues to lose farmland. Urban rivers are not suitable for recreational use, stormwater runoff is poorly managed, and pollution standards are not stringently enforced. All of these ills are symptomatic of neglect and the expansion of development. The Office of Smart Growth would better manage public and private investment across the state, making the processes less disparate and perhaps freeing up more attention for Michigan’s suffering natural resources and habitats.

The effort to clean up Michigan, like many other programs, would be facilitated by a reduction of the state’s budget deficit. The Office of Smart Growth will also enable progress towards this crucial goal by saving money, as mentioned previously. In time, that preserved funding could not only be used to ameliorate Michigan’s dire financial situation, but also to restore crucial programs, like mental health care, that either atrophied or disappeared under Republican Gov. Engler.

What arose during the reign of the previous regime was a regional split and vilification of Detroit that was accentuated and manipulated by former Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus during his run for Governor. The Office of Smart Growth will help to mollify Michiganders by saving the state money, protecting the environment, and deftly encouraging economic recovery. Granholm must make all of these points clear tonight.

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