No one ever said this job was glamorous. Try telling people at a party that you do policy research for a living, and right away they complain about how much they pay for car insurance. Try to explain about the history of personal-injury protection and no-fault, and they get impatient – “You mean you can’t find me a cheaper policy? I thought that was your job!”
Not that kind of policy, sorry.
But we have our rewards, and now, at the end of 2018, we’re able to take a step back, look at the year in review, and assess what we did and how we did it. And while we’re admittedly biased on this subject, it was a pretty good year.
We continued to report on better, smarter ways to deliver services at the local level. It starts with revenue, of course, and we pointed out that other states do it better.Perhaps a local-option could be expanded? And maybe services could be better-done by a regional entity? (Spoiler: It’s counties.)
April brought the hottest release since the final Harry Potter book, our annual update to the Outline of the Michigan Tax System. If you see Jordon Newton around Lansing, he’d probably be willing to autograph your copy.
Later that month, we dropped our data dive into Michigan’s urban/rural divide. The good news: By the numbers, we have so much more in common than you’d ever think. The bad news is that we have a little-recognized problem on the horizon to ensure the sustainability of our rural communities.
In May, we tried something different, partnering with Drs. Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson and Lyke Thompson of Wayne State University to condense and republish their work on the long-term effects of term limits in Michigan.
In June, with a ballot issue on the subject steaming toward approval, we used three statistical techniques to examine whether partisan gerrymandering was present in Michigan legislative districts. It didn’t take creative statistical analysis to find its presence.
And a few weeks later, we published a report that still is getting attention around the state, our examination of public health in Michigan. And it’s not just coming from the health-care industry, but from policy circles as well.
Which seems a good transition to our highest-profile and highest-traffic (at least with the general public) work of the year: Our analyses of the ballot proposals on the November ballot always get attention, and we gave our full measure to Proposals 1, 2 and 3.
Anything else? There always is. We hosted the national meeting of our professional organization, the Governmental Research Association, in late summer, showing our contemporaries around the resurgent Detroit. We kept to our goal of posting a blog a week, which you can find in reverse chronological order on our website. And we got a podcast up and running with the help of our new communications director. If you haven’t subscribed to “Facts Matter” yet, please do.
Now, at the end of the year, we think, we did all that? We did, and it was like eating a horse – one bite at a time.
In 2019, we have even bigger plans. We’re investigating a website redesign, and some affirmative steps to attract a wider group of supporters and readers, to join the many fine people who are reading this note today.
Whatever your traditions and rituals at year’s end, please know that all of us at the Research Council are grateful for you, not just today but every day. Moving our state forward is a group effort, and we’re happy to have so many people and organizations surrounding us. Some lead the way, others come up behind, most walk alongside us, bringing their contributions to a better life in Michigan.
Sorry, we can’t help you get a better rate on your car insurance, but if your lawmakers decide to tackle the issue this session, we will certainly be there to help. Because #FactsMatter.