Wayne County Executive Warren Evans’ 2019 State of the County speech March 14 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn included topics such as growth, infrastructure and the state of property values and home foreclosures.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans’ 2019 State of the County speech March 14 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn included topics such as growth, infrastructure and the state of property values and home foreclosures.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes


Evans stresses growth, rebuilding in 2019 State of the County address

By: Brendan Losinski | C&G Newspapers | Published March 14, 2019

 Volunteers at the Wayne County Meals on Wheels program were singled out for their dedication during Warren C. Evans’ 2019 State of the County address.

Volunteers at the Wayne County Meals on Wheels program were singled out for their dedication during Warren C. Evans’ 2019 State of the County address.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

 Evans gives his annual State of the County address March 14 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

Evans gives his annual State of the County address March 14 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

 Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell listen to the State of the County address.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell listen to the State of the County address.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

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DEARBORN — Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans gave his annual State of the County address March 14 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.

Evans broke down where he believes the county is at in 2019 and laid out some of the recent accomplishments of the community, as well as what he sees as its most pressing challenges.

“I break where (my administration) has been in Wayne County into two parts,” he said. “The first four years were recovery years. Now we’re in the rebuilding years. … Not only did we recover, but we did it using $100 million less each year.”

One of Evans’ major points in his presentation was the growth and improvement the that county has made at reclaiming former unused properties and using them to welcome in new businesses, such as Ford Motor Co.’s revamping of the former train station building in Detroit or the former site of the McLouth Steel plant in Trenton being purchased by Crown Enterprises.

Evans also discussed the county’s pension liability, which is only 62 percent funded. Although this is an increase from the 45 percent amount that was funded in 2015, he said it isn’t enough.

“Our goal is long-term sustainable fiscal health for Wayne County and its pension system,” said Evans. “Our goal is getting it at least 80 percent funded. That’s the minimum of a healthy liability.”

Evans also stressed the need to address foreclosures within the county by protecting renters, curbing blight and getting more houses back on the market.

“We can’t rebuild Wayne County without taking a serious look at foreclosures,” said Evans. “The county’s primary source of income is property taxes. … What’s clear is the current system isn’t working. We’re far better off fiscally and morally if we are keeping people in their homes.

Evans brought up work with the Wayne County Land Bank, which has been trying to curb slumlords from taking advantage of renters and speculators who buy property and let it sit idle. He highlighted the Action Before Auction program run by the land bank to work with residents to keep them in their homes.

“Over the last two years, the land bank has put 1,200 properties back on the tax rolls and maintained 1,000 more homes,” he added.

One of the methods Evans wants to take to improve the county is to work with the state to change how Community Development Block Grants are distributed and slated for use. Currently, they are distributed based on population. Evans believed basing it on the need of certain communities and neighborhoods would make a bigger and more lasting impact.

Evans stressed that revenue in the county is still far behind where it was prior to the recession and has not been able to rise due to the Headlee Amendment — which restricts the amount that property taxes can increase over time — and other issues such as blight still being a problem.

He stated that the property tax revenue for the county was $405 million in 2007 and was $308 million in 2018.

Additional support from the state would also be crucial for strides forward regarding Wayne County’s infrastructure, particularly its roads and bridges, Evans said.

“We have the oldest set of bridges and roads in the state,” he said. “We have an infrastructure problem, and Wayne County is the center of commerce and travel in Michigan. … A major cash infusion from the state is needed, and the formula needs to change on how roads are funded.”

Evans said the same amount of funding goes for a mile of road of a major four-lane thoroughfare in Detroit as goes to a two-lane country road in the Upper Peninsula.

Tied in with the roads is also the issue of public transit, which Evans also made a major topic during his speech. He said public transit attracts talent and grows the tax base of an area, improves opportunities for social mobility and inclusion, and helps senior citizens maintain their independence.

“You have no idea how many young people in this county have no reliable means of transportation,” he said. “I took a bus from the Motor City Casino to Novi, and it took two hours and long waits in the cold to get there. … I’ve heard people say that young people don’t want to do what it takes to get a good job. Well, I’m telling you that if you had to do what they do to get a job, you wouldn’t want to do it either.”

He also focused on retaining county employees, adapting to the changing nature of the auto industry and diversity.

Harper Woods Mayor Pro Tem Valerie Kindle was present at the address and said she approved of the points Evans focused on throughout the night.

“It was very inclusive,” she remarked. “He can do some things that would help Harper Woods with foreclosures that he mentioned in the speech. I look forward to working with the county on issues like housing and parks.”

She added that several of the improvements mentioned by Evans should create tangible improvements for the lives of Wayne County residents.

“He spoke so much about making people feel welcome and diversity,” said Kindle. “I was happy our new jail complex is moving forward; I was so tired of looking at that eyesore downtown. I also was touched by the support he and the county have been showing toward Meals on Wheels. It’s a program that helps a lot of seniors in our community.”

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