Business, City Transformation

Mayor William Wild: Mackinac Policy Conference is the Perfect Time to Talk about Cities

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Mayor William R. Wild is one of the few full-time mayors in Michigan, and he helps govern the state’s 10th largest city. Although he enjoys his job and is grateful to his citizens, Wild sometimes feels like his role as mayor is challenged by forces outside of his control.

He is concerned with issues ranging from the state’s population drop to the potential of losing another Congressional seat to the substantial cuts to revenue sharing to cities, villages, townships, and counties. The state has cut revenue sharing since 2002 by $8.1 billion ($69.2 million) and Westland ($34.4 million) all feeling the impact.

Wild 1“We must reverse this trend,” said Wild, who is on Mackinac Island this week for the Mackinac Policy Conference. “Loss of representation in Washington is another obstacle toward growing our cities and our state. I believe the only way to attain this goal is adopting our motto ‘Cities Matter.’ It is only by investing in our communities that we are going to attract business expansion, entrepreneurs, recent graduates and keep our own, young and old, from leaving our beautiful state.”

Wild spoke about his impressions of the Mackinac Policy Conference, his thoughts on Michigan’s recovery and more in an interview.

Q: Why do you attend the Mackinac Policy Conference?

A: I’ve been going to the Conference now for about 10 years. I go to represent my city. But when I go to this even I try to speak on a regional level – as a mayor on behalf of cities. You’ve got business leaders, thought leaders and the media there. It’s a platform to have these discussions. I’m going on a platform that “Cities Matter.” As we come through the recession and the state of Michigan is on the right track, a lot of policies are in place that make it difficult for cities to participate.

Q: How is Westland affected by these policies?

A: I’m in my 10th years as mayor. And with Westland being the 10th largest city in the state, it is a bellwether for the rest of Michigan. What we’re seeing is the city just a couple of years ago, facing a $30 million deficit. We made a lot of changes and we came out of it with a smaller government. We’re much leaner. We’re almost back to where we started because of policies in place that make it difficult for cities to participate in Michigan’s recovery.

Q: What could the state do to help?

A: One example is Proposition A. It helped homeowners from increasingly large property taxes. Wayne County, however, has lost 30 to 40 percent of its home value starting in 2008. Now we’re seeing them rebound, but we’ve still lost taxable values along with that. Most cities have seen their property values come back, but not all to pre-recession prices. Westland is almost there. Westland lost about 40 percent of our property values during that same time period. It’s a struggle to provide 2017 services at 2008 prices. … What I’ll try to do on the Island is to talk to other legislators about this issue and others such as education and tax reform. If we want to be a top 10 state, we need cities people actually want to live in and business leaders want to invest in. … Our city is struggling, and other smaller cities without that tax base are facing the same.

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