Over CRC’s 100 year history, it has made an outsized impact for such a small organization. This is the fifth in a series of blog posts highlighting CRC’s top projects and reports since its inception in 1916.
From its inception in 1916, Citizens Research Council of Michigan (known as the Detroit Bureau of Governmental Research until 1951), has dedicated much, if not most at times, of its research to local government issues. In the first decade of the new millennium, in concert with weakness in Michigan’s economy and corresponding drops in local government revenues, local government consolidation and cooperation dominated discussions on how to deliver local government services more cost effectively.
In 2005, Citizens Research Council delivered Catalog of Local Government Services in Michigan, the first in a series, which reported information on what services were delivered by 467 local governments in 24 counties and how those services were provided—by the local unit, private contract, or by another unit.
In 2007, Citizens Research Council presented a reference work, Authorization for Interlocal Agreements and Intergovernmental Cooperation in Michigan, which covered 77 provisions in Michigan law that authorize joint service provision. It described the functions or services authorized, listed the units eligible to provide the services, and indicated the financial advantages gained by employing these laws.
The final general analysis in the series came in 2008 with Approaches to Consolidating Local Government Services, which recommended an approach for identifying services well suited for collaborative service provision and provided a framework to aid in the determination of whether the service should be provided by the individual unit, with neighboring units, or with overlapping units (county or state).
This research program resulted in numerous requests from local units for assistance in assessing the prospects for intergovernmental arrangements in their areas. Notable examples were Grand Blanc and Grand Blanc Township, Grand Rapids and Kent County, and the Township of Onekama and Onekama Village in Manistee County.
Although some movement in the direction of intergovernmental collaboration occurred, it was clear that, even with the incentives provided by budgetary stringency, local issues constituted significant and, in many cases, insurmountable, barriers. However, Citizens Research Council, doing what it does best, provided objective facts to citizens enabling them to make decisions they felt were best for their community. Approaches to Consolidated Local Government Services, won the 2009 GRA award for Most Distinguished Research.