Developers and public officials should take note, that public engagement in large-scale mixed-use projects or projects involving critical infrastructure is vital to the success of any project. Any project begins with a vision. If that vision is not shared or shaped without public insight, then the project may fail or end up looking a lot different than originally thought of. PR or Public Relationships can help any project succeed. It will bring less fear, build trust and may actually motivate people to help advance your project, the way you want it.
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Photo courtesy of Bill Kohler.
The State of Michigan is seeking input on a plan for transforming Michigan’s health care system. The state will submit an operational plan for the SIM initiative to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on May 31, 2016. The draft plan is available here for public review. Public comment is being accepted through a survey of SIM initiative stakeholders. Your feedback will help guide the state's efforts as it moves forward with implementation.
If you are interested, please follow this link to view and respond to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VV8BQCG. Responses to the survey should be submitted by 5:00 PM on Monday, May 18, 2016.
Crisis just don’t just happen, they evolve. Just like hurricanes do not suddenly appear, they are given time to gain momentum or dissipate. A forest fire does not start out as an inferno, it starts out as a brushfire. And a terrorist attack does not just happen, the terrorists plot, plan practice and kill.
The community benefits when everyone is engaged. From the design stage to the public process in securing permits, in addition to raising capital and targeting potential retailers and other tenants, constant engagement is vital to the success of any high profile project.
Developing strategic relationships “early-on” helps minimize risk and helps anticipate barriers to seeing projects to their completion. Effective communications is vital to the public’s understanding of the project and the governments involved in helping the project move forward. Therefore, the company or consortium leading the project should be in control of the process and be proactive with their messaging and outreach.
Daniel Cherrin, founder of North Coast Strategies, spoke at Wayne State University Urban Public Policy Resolution Conference on stakeholder engagement, "Giving Voice To The Community." This is his presentation on The Third Way -- The Way Forward and how we can take the politics out of the policy making process.
In siting a project, such as a large scale mixed-use development or a high profile project such as a wind farm, pipeline or even WalMart, it is vital that the developer and construction team seek and obtain input from the community early on in the process and aggressively work to educate the media and other key stakeholders on their plans.
In representing such "public" projects, reaching out to the public must become a vital part of the process, otherwise, the project may be at jeopardy from the start. The community should feel like their voices are being heard and listened to. This will improve the chances of the developer realizing their vision and help strengthen their position to seek financing or investors.
In the example of windfarms, I was retained to represent an 1800 MW off shore wind proposal in Southwestern Ontario in Lakes Erie and St. Clair. In one day, I led 7 public engagement meetings and the public was anything but supportive. They could have been if they were involved early in the process, rather than reading about in the newspaper. Because they read about it they were more emotional about the project than in understanding the big picture and how the developer leading the project was interested in working with the community and their plans for working with the community -- but that message was never heard. So while we listened and responded to their concerns, the project was never implemented. It was not implemented due to regulatory changes in the province, not because of public opinion.
I also represented a deep injection well, several years after the project was in operation and already cited for environmental violations by a previous owner. The new owner retained me to help improve relationships with the community to better understand the deep injection process and impact or lack thereof, this project would have. So I invited the community into their facility to see the cite first hand, to appreciate the technology and see the depth of safeguards and systems they had in place to avoid future problems.
Whether directed by law or not, stakeholder engagement is a necessary part of the process, particularly with renewable energy projects. In these type of projects it is important that the community have any necessary information to the project and have an outlet to ask questions, whether it is through a website, twitter feed or in person meetings. In fact, before a project ever begins it is a good idea to engage key stakeholders in a thoughtful dialogue so you know what you are getting into and can anticipate issues and responses. While we knew we would not get the community's support, we wanted to let them know the new owner was aware of their concerns and willing to work with them.
There are other examples, from large scale mixed-use developments set to transform a city to environmental justice issues such as the storage of petroleum coke along a major H20 Highway in the Great Lakes, but they all need a strategic strategy to educate a community, listen to their concerns and engage them rather than avoid them. The public needs to be a part of the process. By engaging the community, a developer will have an easier time going to the Mayor for support or getting the city council to agree on their proposal, long before they ultimately need their support.
Developers are quick to announce projects and share renderings of new buildings. Often however, they build up hope and good media, only to get sidelined by government that stands in the way of implementing a vision. To make the vision a reality, developers should go to the community first, find the community groups they need for support or at least become aware of their concerns and plan accordingly. This will also improve the developers position to seek financing or investors as it helps tell the project's story.
In other words, for a project to be successful, creating a strategy that engages the pubic early, with sufficient information will help build trust, enhance your reputation and improve understanding of the project to help reach desired outcomes. Successful local engagement, will help improve or overcome any legal and regulatory challenges standing in the way so the next time someone announces a project, it won't be because the public's opinion is not on their side.
Sustainable leadership starts with a vision. That vision may be from a great mind or a great listener. The State of the Union, State of the State and State of the City is the prime opportunity of the Chief Executive to celebrate their achievements, communicate their vision for what they want to happen before they leave office and their lay out their agenda for how they will achieve that vision.
As the former Communications Director for the City of Detroit, I have drafted a State of the City and worked to communicate a vision for Detroit. In our case, that vision was a dose of reality, following the previous mayors incarceration, the city's true financial situation exposed and a US economy on the verge of one of the worst recessions in decades.
"We have a choice," Mayor Cockrel said in 2009. "We can continue to do business as usual and fail to live within our means as a city government, but doing so means that someone else will likely be appointed to come and make the hard choices for us."
At the time, the people of Detroit did not want to hear or believe that message, but it was our warning that the previous Mayor left us in a very difficult position. As a result, we used that speech and that opportunity to lay out all the cards and give a realistic picture of Detroit's financial situation as we knew it at that time.
It was also our opportunity to assure the people of Detroit and the entire state of Michigan, in addition to the bond holders that we had a handle on the situation and they they could be assured we were setting the city back on the right path.
Today, the person appointed to fix Detroit's financial situation came and left. Crane's clutter Detroit's skyline and there is progress in the city. Lots of work however remains. Public safety remains an issue, obesity is a problem and illiteracy continues to plague Detroit. With the city's financial situation being taken care of, it is now time to focus on the people. We need to find a way to break the cycle of poverty in the city, find a way to ensure Detroit schoolchildren start school ready to learn and that a job awaits the people who seek them.
The Mayor must now work at breaking the cycle of poverty and find a way for everyone to buy into the same vision.
To Move Michigan Forward, we must first create a vision that a majority of stakeholders can agree on. This vision will help everyone focus on the core issues and when they stray toward politics, we can bring them back to the issue. This is the process by which we can start stakeholder engagement.
At each step of the way, we will identify quick wins or mutual gains for each stakeholder, to build trust and let them know we are all in this fight together. And at each step, we share information to help each of us make informed decisions. If it is not something we can agree on, then we should move to the next issue and focus on those issues that we can agree on.
The use of ADR processes by the courts and federal government has been widely celebrated as a more efficient and cost effective method of conflict resolution. Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process in which a trained, impartial mediator helps people examine their mutual problems, identify and consider options and carefully consider possible resolutions. A mediator has the experience to bring disputing parties together and help them draw out a successful resolution while preventing an impasse during the negotiations, or otherwise prevent the discussions from breaking down. Unlike a judge or arbitrator, a mediator does not make the decisions nor do they offer solutions. They help separate the politics from the process, help the parties find a common ground, build trust and identify potential solutions to agree on.
Public policy dispute resolution focuses on the resolution of issues affecting the public, such as: Transportation; land use, special education, election districts and healthcare. With public policy disputes, the issues tend to be a bit more polarizing, emotional and there are often a number of stakeholders from the community, including non-profits and business groups, and governments at a local, state and federal level.
Whether it is a public policy dispute or a dispute between neighbors, the goal of public any dispute resolution is to save money, preserve relationships and take control over the decisions. When it involves a public policy dispute, it is helpful and most effective if it creates the opportunity for all voices to be heard. It is a process being used in the planning process of multiple projects, including economic development projects in Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City Utah.
In any mediation, the first step in the mediation process is to get both parties to agree to use a mediator. That is actually the first agreement both parties make together and we are on the way to developing trust and building a relationship.
While many states have dispute resolution clauses in key legislation or dispute resolution centers at universities, the State of Michigan does not. The ADR Section to the State Bar of Michigan, continues to talk with universities about creating a "Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution Services," and continues to talk with legislators. However, since no university has yet to step forward in creating such a center, in part due to funding, The ADR Section is trying to show by example, the benefits of ADR.
Today’s political reality is that politics is by nature partisan and partisan politics has now overtaken the capitol. In addition, people and business are demanding a greater role in the policy making process so more voices are competing to make public policy that benefits or protects them.
After Tuesday’s election, it is time our elected leaders push politics aside and focus on the big picture of helping Michigan Move Forward.
Seattle, Wash, was struggling for years in figuring out how to replace The Alaskan Way Viaduct, a piece of aging infrastructure that stood as a barrier between Seattle’s downtown and its waterfront.
On one side you had environmental advocates that favored a solution focused on mass transit and bikes over more roadways. The business community favored access and city leaders wanted to leverage the city’s waterfront to revitalize the city. And taxpayer groups wanted something that was low cost.
As a result, a tunnel, elevated highway or retrofit of existing structures were not viable solutions. A referendum failed and still after 10+ years of dialogue and debate, a consensus could not be reached.
City leaders turned to professional facilitators to help reach a consensus. The facilitators stepped in and secured a commitment from all those involved that they would negotiate a consensus agreement. They reframed the issue, considered the region’s needs and reviewed an independent technical analysis of potential solutions. In addition, an advisory group of stakeholders was forced to provide input into the process to assist those at the negotiating table.
It is time Detroit’s regional leaders come back to the table and negotiate a consensus agreement as it relates to the DWSD and help the region move forward onto additional issues that impact the region as a whole.
Today, Seattle is a vibrant community. It is not just a city. Those in Seattle have adopted a certain lifestyle, created in part by removing the barriers linking a downtown to its waterfront and creating a bridge between vital stakeholders who had the power to act and help the city move forward.
And now that viaduct, is just "water under the bridge."
The Michigan Legislature recently considered legislation concerning "distressed schools" and creating a process to establish an "early warning system," to avoid state intervention due to financial stress.
Currently there are 48 distressed schools or districts at risk of financial disstress in Michigan. Some districts have a short-term hiccup, while others face long-term issues, such as continued declining enrollments and increased labor costs. According to Gongwer, the multi-bill package proscribes measures for financially distressed school districts—with advocates noting—doubles the maximum amount the Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board is authorized to lend troubled districts, revises the loan’s eligibility criteria, eliminates restrictions on the Board’s ability to restructure existing loan repayment programs and removes limitations on the amount of surplus funds that can be loaned to municipalities and school districts over the next six fiscal years.
A number of school officials are opposed to the legislation, arguing that some of the measures’ reporting requirements and criteria are burdensome and possibly redundant, and would actually add to the district’s financial woes. However, those same school officials should work with a facilitator to engage stakeholders in defining the problem and working in advance of the state stepping in to identify and implement realistic solutions.
By being proactive and engaging your community early on, you can avoid difficult situations down the road. However, acknowledging the problem and engaging others in the solution is a difficult process, one that can be helped by brining in a neutral to guide the discussion and help extract solutions.
Voters in several Michigan communities turned down an opportunity to merge their governments last year. Not because it did not make financial sense, but by merging one community would loose their identity. According to a recent article in Bridge Magazine, voters in Onekema Village (Mich.) voted against merging with neighboring Onekema Township and voters in Douglas, Mich. voted against merging with Saugatuck. The opportunity to identify with your community outweighed the chance to save money and create a more efficient government. The same result occurred a decade earlier, according to The Bridge, when in 1993, voters rejected rejected a proposal to consolidate the Village of Spring Lake, Mich. with Ferrysburg and in 2006, when voters in Grand Blanc, just outside of Flint, Mich. rejected a proposal to merge with Grand Blanc Township.
Identify is extremely important to people and being able to identify with your community is something we are very proud of. In bringing the issue of government consolidations or mergers it is important for government leaders to engage their constituents and have them drive the discussion as to what they would support and why.
Stakeholder engagement is important to any successful merger. Without it you move alone without the support of the constituency you need most.