Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Kids with drive are inspiration

I had the opportunity last week to write stories about two area teenagers who demonstrate a remarkable and rare drive for success. We're going to hear more about these two kids; each is going to do big things, I guarantee it.

Zach Wigal, a Saline High School senior, has spent much of the past year getting off the ground the Gamers Outreach Foundation , a non-profit that will bring video gamers together for charity fund-raisers. Wigal's idea emerged from disappointment: about a year ago, a Halo 2 tournament he planned to hold at the high school was canceled by school officials four days before it was to take place after they decided the game was too violent to hold on school grounds. Instead of throwing up his hands in despair or even just trying to hold another tournament somewhere else, Wigal decided to tackle a bigger issue. He decided to change the perception that video gamers were only obsessed with the violence of the digital world; that somehow gamers were social misfits because of their passion.

He envisioned turning gaming toward good. And his vision is taking off. The charity foundation will hold its first fund-raiser, Gamers for Giving, Feb. 29-March2 at Eastern Michigan University. Some 300 gamers are expected to take part in the event and GOF hopes to raise around $7,500 for the Autism Society of Washtenaw County.

The buzz on this continues to grow. I think Zach's vision has real, long-term legs. This isn't a simple fund-raiser. This is a movement. And this kid is only 18. Watch for some amazing things from Wigal; you'll be seeing his name again on a national level, I'm sure.

Another kid who is bound to be heard from a lot in the future is Tevyn Cole, a 14-year-old clothing designer attending Milan High School.

This kid, I'm telling you, all you can say is, "Wow." He started his line of School Me clothing when he was ten. Ten! I think at 10 I was collecting rocks and digging a hole in a nearby field to create an underground fort. Tevyn has more productive ways to spend his time. His clothing line celebrates Black history and the accomplishments of African-American scientists and engineers. The idea alone is solid, but Cole is a natural-born entrepreneur and he would throw the same amount of energy and committment behind any idea he became passionate about. He has his own business cards and Web site. He was recently selected as one of 100 teenagers from across the country to take part in the Disney's Dreamers Academy, where he spent four days hob-nobbing with Disney executives and other successful people in a wide range of fields.

One of these days, I fully expect to flip on my television and see Tevyn being interviewed by Donny Deutsch on CNBC's The Big Idea, where they talk to men and women who have become successful in entrepreneurial pursuits.

I really can't wait to see where these two kids take their lives. They have all the ingredients as far as I can tell to succeed and succeed madly.

But no pressure, guys, no pressure.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reporters win awards

The Milan News-Leader and Saline Reporter's staff have earned national recognition for their reporting, headline writing, photography and commentary in the 2007 Suburban Newspapers of America Editorial Contest.

I am so proud of my team. Brian Cox, Sue G. Collins and Jerry Hinnen do an amazing job with the limited resources we have at these small, weekly newspapers. To be recognized on a national scale should be very rewarding for them and I hope they realize how remarkable it is that they have received eight awards in such a prestigious and competitive contest. They have also won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists Detroit chapter and the Michigan Press Association in the last year.

In the SNA contest, in which the awards were announced Friday, Brian won third place for column writing, first place for best headline ("A 'pony' tale"), honorable mention for best photojournalism ("Hands-on Learning") and honorable mention for best coverage of local education/school district issues (Saline schools).

Sue won second place for breaking news story ("Autolign Closes"), third place for best feature series ("Open for Business) and honorable mention for best coverage of investigative reporting ("Parking Problem?")

We also won second place for best graphic artwork.

Our parent company, the Journal Register Co., garnered the most awards in the contest with 142, easily beating out Metroland newspapers with 73 and Lee Enterprises with 60. Even more remarkable, JRC's Heritage Newspapers group, which both the Saline and Milan papers are part of, captured the most within JRC, with newspapers across the East Coast and Midwest, with 35 awards.

Heritage Newspapers' western region publications, which include Saline, Milan, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Ypsilanti and Belleville, won 19 of Heritage's 35 awards. There are four editors and eight reporters assigned to the seven publications.

The editorial contest, SNA's most popular contest of the year, included thousands of entries from members across North America. The contest recognizes editorial excellence in six different circulation classes that separates dailies from non-dailies. All first-place winners will be recognized in a full-color advertisement published in Editor & Publisher. Awards will be presented at SNA's Spring Publishers' Conference.

Please join me in congratulating the newspapers' staff on a job well done.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Other cheers I miss

Thursday night I traveled down to Bedford High to see Saline's girls' hoops team try and extend their winning streak, and, to a lesser extent, visit Bedford, the only Southeastern Conference school I'd never visited. I can't say I had the most pleasurable viewing experience, as Bedford's gym has been expanded at some point and the upper, additional rows are separated on a kind of balcony level over what was already a packed lower level by the time I got there. That wasn't a biggie ... but the huge support pole you had to look past if you were one of the unfortunate souls in the upper section? Yeah, I didn't care for that so much.

But the Bedford gym did have something going for it: namely, that their auxiliary gym floor was right behind the main gym, divided by a giant vinyl curtain, and that the Bedford cheer team was practicing there. The result was that although the fans could hear a squad of cheerleaders cheering on the Bedford athletes, you couldn't actually see them (except for a couple of quick glimpses of hands over the top of the curtain when they practiced their lifts or, I don't know, flew around). It was like watching a game in a gym haunted by cheerleader ghosts who had taken their Bedford pep and school spirit with them beyond the grave, or something.

All of which reminded me that this week's column had a brief cheerleading note and that I'd left several other cheers I enjoyed as a youth out for space reasons (and because they are, occasionally, cheered by Saline's and Milan's cheer squads). Anyway, here's a few of those chestnuts that would still get me on my feet (well, almost) today:

1. "Our team is DYNAMITE! Our team is DYNAMITE! Our team is tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-BOOM! DYNAMITE!" Any cheer that combines explosions and onomatopoeia (there's your useless poetry glossary term of the day, kiddos) is a good one.

2. "Be! Aggressive! Be, be! Aggressive! B-E-A-GG-RESSIVE!" Probably the single catchiest cheer ever created. Gets stuck in the head more easily than most commercial jingles, in my experience.

3. "L-E-T-S-G-O, that's the way we spell 'Let's Go!' Let's Go! Hey, hey, let's go!" The implication that other people might spell "let's go" in a different way but that this cheer squad, basketball team, fan section, etc. spells it L-E-T-S-G-O just amuses me.

I should probably take a moment to mention the cheer I have heard most often around here I really like, and that's the "We've got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit, how 'bout YOU?" call-and-response, capped by competing "We've got more! We've got more!" chants at the end. We had the "We've got spirit ... " part back in the day, but the "We've got more!" face-off at the end must be a recent--and rather ingenious--invention.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Muckler delivers strong State of the City address

I've had to sit through a number of State of the City addresses in my time, but I can honestly say I haven't heard one better than the address Milan Mayor Kym Muckler gave at the council meeting Monday night.

It was broad in scope, celebrated the positive things taking place in Milan, but didn't shy away from painting a pretty clear picture of the financial challenges the city faces.

Even after laying out the grim financial facts, Muckler managed to touch on a litany of events, volunteers, and bright spots that should have left most listeners uplifted and more confident about the future.

Read what she had to say for yourself and let me know what you think:

"Fellow citizens of Milan,

Tonight it is my honor to inform you of the state of our city. Although it has been a short two months since Election Day, I have been very busy getting up to speed on the issues now facing us, and as well as future challenges.

First of all, I am confident in the administrative staff and department heads that have seen us through a financially difficult time. Our city administrator, clerk treasurer, building and zoning official, police chief and parks and rec director are quality people, who stepped up their efforts to maintain our services, despite dramatic cuts in personnel and departmental budgets. I’ve reappointed them all.

Secondly, the most urgent test facing our city is our financial picture. You’ve all just heard the report from our auditor. It is certain that our budget will require vigilant stewardship.

Last year, the downturn in the housing market resulted in tap-in fees of approximately $50,000 instead of a projected $750,000. The projected amount was to be used to offset the annual $1 million payment towards the $13.7 million dollar Waste Water Treatment Expansion bond. This situation meant that our last council was put in the position of making some very tough budget decisions totaling some $600,000 dollars in cuts to make up for that difference.

Last March, Automotive Components Holdings, LLC, also known as ACH, submitted a challenge to their 2006 real and personal property tax bill. They requested an 84 percent reduction in their assessed valuation. We offered to reduce the real property assessment in return for ACH dropping the assessment challenge on their personal property tax. While they have not officially rejected our proposal, they continue to challenge the assessment. If the state should rule in ACH’s favor, it could mean a decrease of as much as $900,000 in revenue per year. This would devastate our already strained budget. We, as your elected leadership, have pledged to vigorously defend our assessments.

We are currently reviewing several options and strategies for minimizing the city’s financial risk.

Many of the cuts made last year made a positive effect on our finances this year. While this year’s budget will be a challenge for us, the news isn’t all bad. According to our audit, the city did experience some gain. The city realized an increase in the reserve balance, or rainy day fund of more than $212,000 dollars, which increased the city’s fund balance to just under $300,000. This growth translates to a fund balance reserve of 5.4 percent. This is up from 1.5 percent from last year.

While this is good news---it should be tempered with some caution. Remember, we made several ONE-TIME cuts to make this happen. Our auditor recommends we maintain between 20 and 25 percent of our general fund in reserve to cover any future emergencies or unforeseen contingencies. We are constantly reviewing our budget tokeep our costs down while maintaining services.


While the financial crisis is not over, our recovery is in sight. We have many challenges facing us in the coming months to stabilize our finances.

As a council we’ve reviewed the goals and objectives of the last council and reprioritized some of them. We all agree that the city must continue to focus on diversifying its tax base, attracting more investment here.

Gains toward this goal have been achieved, despite the state’s recession. We regularly experience interest from business and industry to open doors here in Milan. We will continue to focus on recruitment for investment here. This focus on economic development is starting to pay off. Very soon, we will welcome a nearly 22,000 square foot medical facility, Integrated Health Associates to Milan. This new venture will represent upward of $1.75 million in taxable value to our city.

In addition, trucking organization, Martin Transportation Systems, Inc is renovating the former Autolign building. This new business is expected to bring some 125 jobs to Milan.

Also, Bay Logistics, a sister company to Martin Transportation, is expected to make some 50 local job openings this year.

We continue to aggressively pursue industrial, commercial and business investment in Milan. We have established contacts with state and local economic development organizations. We stay in constant communication for leads of new investors that would be a good fit here. Our city is now on the radar screen.

Last week, the department heads and I started work on a “continuity” plan for our city, to enhance our current emergency management plan. We’ve also started a review of current city practices and procedures and are looking for ways to improve and enhance our services and public safety.

Moreover, I’m taking advantage of learning opportunities offered by the Michigan Municipal League for elected officials as well as the Institute for Local Government.

Next month, our city administrator and I will attend a Community Economic Adjustment Program to learn about potential funding resources to support our community’s recovery in response to the state’s economic situation.

We strive to continually learn and research ways to make Milan more environmentally responsible. This week, the city administrator and I, will attend an information seminar on Planning for Green Communities.

There are countless ways to solve problems, but only if you know what your options are---we are always looking for and exploring new options and possibilities.

Also, we will continue to take advantage of grant and aid opportunities to offset costs for infrastructure repair, through state and federal grants.

Our city administrator recently identified several projects for which we may apply for more than $3 million dollars in grants for several road improvement projects, including Wabash Street, sections of Plank Road, the Plank Road Bridge, and resurfacing of County, Tolan and North streets.

Moreover, we are looking at using environmentally responsible techniques for these road improvements, which recycles our existing asphalt. This procedure is also more cost effective than other processes.

Although there are many tests and challenges ahead, we will address them each one by one.
Despite the dismal economic projections of the experts we see on the nightly news—I believe we can take control of our own destiny, right here in Milan, by empowering our most valuable asset—our residents.

You and I are the stakeholders of our city—-we can make a real difference here, by shopping locally and spending our dollars here, in Milan’s businesses, restaurants, services, and locally owned industries. This should be our first priority.

In addition, we should encourage visitors to come here for great events like our Community Fair, fireworks, parades, and parks and recreation programs. Many of these events are run solely by volunteers at no cost to the city. Volunteers organize many of our youth sports, including baseball, soccer and most recently flag-football.

We have a great school system. Our Milan Public Library provides not only state-of-the-art resources for our community, but wonderful children’s programs and quiet leisure time for our residents and greater community.

We are a community minded citizenry. Our volunteer opportunities benefit our quality of life.
These events strengthen our sense of connection to one another, and they revitalize our economy.

Events include a weekly car show, hosted by the local car enthusiast club, the Backstreet Cruizers. This year the Backstreet Cruizers in cooperation with the Milan Area Chamber of Commerce organized our Christmas Parade. In addition, our Downtown Development Authority organized several exciting events, including Discover Milan, Downtown Trick-or-Treat, to promote our downtown and draw interest and vitality to our Main Street. The Moving Milan Forward group, which started as a coffee clutch has several exciting projects and ideas for improving our city’s parks along the lake and throughout town. Our Historical Society hosts some fascinating programs highlighting our own unique history here. The Milan Area Chamber of Commerce is extremely active in helping draw interest and business people to Milan on a regular basis. The Milan Chamber recently hosted an informative event that highlighted the benefits of “Thinking Local First,” that supports the premise of shopping and buying local. Many of these events were held at no cost to the taxpayers, and would not be possible without the people willing to volunteer. I hope to encourage more of that kind of commitment.

I’d also like to mention and commend the volunteers who serve on the Milan Police Reserve. This group of individuals volunteers their own time to keeping the peace in our community, at no cost to the tax payers. The reserve officers report for duty without any pay.

The on-call Milan Area Fire Department firefighters are another elite group of individuals who deserve our acknowledgement and gratitude. In Milan, the volunteer fire fighters are a source of both community and family pride, spanning some three generations in some families. We are committed to continuing this tradition of on-call firefighters long into our future.

This kind of involvement and commitment to the City of Milan helps us stay connected to one another. A tight knit community attracts more people interested in doing good things for our community—be it opening a business or becoming a new resident—both are investments in our city’s future. As your Mayor, I pledge to continue to provide the quality of life that we all have come to expect while keeping our costs and taxes down. If you have any comments or concerns—I want to hear from you. I am available to talk or meet with you to hear what you have to say and to answer your questions.

Remember: We are Milan. We are the stakeholders.

Thank you.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

New Intern Joins Staff

I am pleased to announce The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader have a new face reporting the news. Kevin Korpal, a senior at Eastern Michigan University studying journalism, is completing an internship at our papers. I've asked Kevin to concentrate the bulk of his time in Milan, so Milan readers please feel free to e-mail him with your story leads at kkorpal@emich.edu. In addition, Kevin will be producing the Saline Police Blotter. He visited the Saline Police Department for the first time Jan. 17 with staff reporter Brian Cox.

Kevin is working on a couple of assignments for our next edition, including a feature story on Christian Thompson, owner of Christian's Catering in Milan, who will participate in the Food Network's South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami at the end of February. Kevin attended one of Christian's cooking classes and I am anxiously awaiting the column he was assigned to write about the experience.

Kevin's experience includes classes in advanced reporting, copy editing, feature writing, newspaper layout and design and sports writing, which is his passion. He wants to branch out, however, into other areas and develop those reporting skills. I'd also like to see him get experience producing local videos, so if you have any ideas for that, please e-mail me at mrogers@heritage.com.
We've also expanded our local video offerings, adding a local newscast. If you're available after 3 p.m. on Wednesdays, you could be our local newscaster. All you have to do is read a script based on the coming week's headlines and we'll video you. You can add your own personal commentary and personality or read it straight. Here's an example of our recent sports newscast. Other examples can be found on our Web sites www.salinereporter.com and www.milannews.com.

video

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Assorted observations

For my first post on this blog in absolutely forever, I should probably do something grand. But I've just got a little while before leaving for tonight's Milan-Flat Rock girls basketball game (a quick Congrats here to the Milan boys' team, which got their first win of the season Thursday night on the road at New Boston Huron), so instead here's five quickie thoughts from various sporting events I've covered the last few weeks:

1. It can't really come across in our normal game articles (though I've tried to make it clear), but Saline's senior center Kyle Larsen has been playing like a house afire (to borrow a fun colloquial phrase) all season. Other guys he's played against might have been taller, stronger, etc., but not one of them has been any craftier or smarter or more fundamental about playing the low block. I doubt anyone's keeping track of "most And-1's drawn" as a statistic, but I imagine he'd be the area's runaway leader. It's been a blast watching him play.

2. Can't say it's a coincidence that the same game 6-8 center Erik Gunderson returned to the Milan boys' basketball line-up after a brief injury absence resulted in the Big Reds' first win. Without him, Milan didn't have a player on the roster listed taller than 6-2, and frankly, I doubt a few of those guys are quite that tall, even. (If you've never heard, listed heights on a roster sheet are regularly an inch or two higher than a player's actual height ... even in the NBA, sometimes.) It's been admirable, actually, that Milan has been so close to pulling off so many big victories (vs. solid teams from Jefferson and Napoleon, for instance) when they faced such a staggering disadvantage. But it might work out for the best. Milan's shooting and ball-handling confidence seemed to improve with Gunderson out, so I wonder if that, combined with "Gundy"'s ability to keep the boards clean, might make the win in New Boston just the start of things.

3. I don't know enough about hockey to fully explain the difference between the '06-'07 Saline hockey team and this year's model, which is 7-6 currently (following a 10-2 pasting of a Lincoln team they drew a season ago) after losing their first dozen-plus games last year. At a glance, it seems like last year's bunch (with excellent senior players like Grant Phillips and Kelly O'Sullivan) couldn't have been that much less talented than this year's. My guess is that it's two things: 1) last year's team had talent at the top but not as much depth because of the strength of the previous year's team (which went to the state finals), whereas most of the players who absorbed their baptism-by-fire last year came back with plenty of ice time under their belts and much more ready to contribute 2) they started out with a couple of wins and have been able to keep their confidence level high. Of course, it might be something else entirely.

4. The word is that Milan's Lindsey Lammers will be back and playing for the girls' basketball team this season, which is nothing short of miraculous if you saw her injure her knee earlier this season. Put as simply as I can, her body went one way and her knee went in a direction that was not compatible with the way her body was headed. I've watched a lot of sports in my time, and it was the most painful-looking injry I've ever seen in person, in any sport on any level. I felt VERY confident her season was over and wondered if she'd ever play basketball again. Now she's apparently going to be back in just a few short weeks. Unbelievable, and unbelievably good news for a Milan team that could sure use her.

5. Just to give you a sneak peek on next week's column for the paper, it's about cool stuff that goes on at basketball games, and I discuss how much I love the song "The Final Countdown," used as entrance music in Milan and by the pep band in Saline. But I'll use this space to specify that "Carry On Wayward Son" will always and forever be my favorite pep band selection, hands down, no argument.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Vote in the Mich. Primary? What the heck?

I admit it. I was/am confused. Why is Michigan having a primary? Why all the $$$ spent on the closed primary election? Hmm. Still, it's off to the polls tomorrow. Come on. Get off your butt and go vote. Here's some basics from the county Web site I found useful. In Saline, vote either at Liberty School or the Methodist Church. 8am - 7 pm -Get more details at elections.ewashtenaw.org.


Prior to receiving a ballot each voter must declare the party primary they would like to vote in. It's an "open primary" which means you can chose either party's ballot. Here is how it will work;

1. In order to vote in the January 15th election you must be a registered voter in the state of Michigan on or before December 17, 2007.
2. Upon entering the precinct you will complete your application to vote.
3. For this election the application to vote will have a section for “party preference”. You are required to fill in the oval in to receive either the Republican or Democratic ballot.
You do not need to be a member of a party to vote in this election. This is a Republican and Democratic primary so you must select either Republican or Democratic. By making this selection you are not joining a party. There is not a third option. If you do not make a selection you will not be given a ballot. You cannot request both ballots. If you would like to see both ballots prior to making a selection there are Sample ballots at each precinct . Also on the city of Saline Web site.

4. You will then be asked to show identification. Election inspectors will be verifying your name and physical identity. The new photo identification law went into effect in November of 2007.
All voters in Michigan are now required to show identification. Voters who do not bring picture identification to the polls or do not possess picture identification may still vote after signing an affidavit.

5. Your name will then be verified as a registered voter within that precinct and you will be recorded as either voting in the Republican or Democratic primary based upon your selection.
This list will be given to the Republican and Democratic party. It is not a public list and therefore is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. If you refuse to have your party selection recorded you will not be given a ballot.

6. You will then be handed either the Republican or Democratic ballot depending on your selection.
7. At this point you will be directed to the voting booth where you will make your selection within that particular party’s primary. Here you will be given instructions on how to properly mark the ballot. You may only vote for one candidate. There is a write-in section on the ballot. However, there are no valid write-in candidates. If you write-in the name of a particular candidate your ballot will be accepted by the machine, but the candidates name you wrote in will not be counted.

There is an “uncommitted” selection on the ballot. By voting “uncommitted” you are indicating that you have chosen to vote in a particular party’s primary, however you do not wish to vote for one of the listed candidates.
You may also vote a “blank” ballot. The machine will reject the ballot letting you know that it is blank, but upon request the inspector will accept the ballot.
8. You will then insert your ballot into the voting machine where your vote will be counted.

On the republican ballot are: Brownback, Giuliani, Huckabee, Hunter, McCain, Paul, Romney, Tancredo, Thompson. Brownback and Tancredo have withdrawn their candidacy so don't waste your lead on those guys.
On the democratic party ballot are: Gravel, Kucinich, Clinton, Dodd. Though - Dodd withdrew his candidacy so don't bother filling in this oval.
Remember, Michigan will not have any delegates anyways at the Democratic National Committee since the state was stripped of its delegates because it moved ahead of the Feb 5 without permission. Obama and Edwards pulled their names from the ballot after this move. You could take a Dem ballot, vote "uncommitted" and (if 15% of voters do so) help send delegates to the convention who are not pledged to any candidate. Dems and independents may vote in the Republican primary.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Saline Mayor's State of the City Address

Mayor Gretchen Driskell’s State of the City Address was given at the year’s first City Council meeting, Jan. 7, 2008. The Saline Reporter is proud to bring it here to our blog for your reading pleasure. It’s good stuff. We’re very fortunate to have a dedicated (not to mention eloquent) Mayor at our helm.
Happy New Year!

It is a great honor to have the opportunity to report on our current state of affairs. Since my last address there have been substantial changes in our community. These are exciting times for this community, a time of great potential. Saline was nominated, for the second time in three years, to Money magazine’s Top 100 Best Places to Live, last August. In this address, I plan to share with you the reasons why we will continue to be a great place, not just to live, but also to work, and to play.

The city is in a sound position financially. Your elected leadership and city staff have been working diligently to keep costs down, by slowing down capital projects, benefits savings, and not replacing open positions. The general fund has an undesignated fund balance of $2.5M (30%) that we have purposefully been building to prepare for the potential closure of our largest business, Automotive Component Holdings formerly known as Visteon or Ford. In November the community was delighted to receive the news that Johnson Controls, a dynamic and reputable company, has entered into a memorandum of understanding with ACH to work towards an agreement to purchase this business. While the sale is still pending, this is a major step toward resolution on the outcome of this business, which accounts for over 9% of our property tax base.
The city also continues to recruit and retain additional businesses to further develop our over 300 acres of business parks. We recognize the importance of a diverse set of businesses in our economy and are diligently pursuing any opportunities for new and expanding business in this slow economy. In fact, Saline has been very fortunate to have new business and business expansions in the past several years. I believe this is due to our “pro business” attitude, a reputation documented in Ann Arbor’s Business Review magazine. A financial goal of the city is to have close to half of our tax revenue stream come from nonresidential revenue, thereby keeping the millage rate low, relative to the level of services.
The city infrastructure is in excellent condition. Our current physical plant is in the best condition in decades. Due to multiple capital improvement projects over the last ten years we have replaced or renovated all of our facilities, with the exception of our wastewater treatment plant which is underway at this time. We are currently in discussion with Saline Township regarding expansion of the City on the western boundary. This is due in part to the Consent Judgement between Biltmore and the Township, and their desire to utilize our existing water and sewer infrastructure. We look forward to a partnership with the Township that will be beneficial for all parties, continuing the relationship we have built over the years.
Because our community is an ideal place to live and raise a family, with excellent schools and quality of life, we will continue to have development pressures. The key to successful growth is the ability to work with the community and grow in a manner that maintains our excellent attributes: great schools, green spaces, safe and vibrant places, and most importantly, a sense of community.

What is it that facilitates a sense of community here in Saline? First and foremost it is the ability to participate in the community, an opportunity to connect beyond the four walls that surround us most frequently.
As residents, we have multiple opportunities to participate. I hope your first priority is shopping locally. Our small businesses are fragile and need your support. Additionally, many local businesses are owned or operated by our neighbors. I know the reconstruction of Michigan Avenue on the east side of town this summer was very difficult for the business along the road, so please get back in those shops. And there are new businesses, like Signature Grille, Cadence Cycle, Maureen’s Design and Emmetts, that have opened in 2007, braving these difficult economic times to bring you their excellent products.
Another opportunity to develop your connection to Saline is by volunteering in organizations or at events that take place in our community. The Saline Celtic Festival is adding several major new venues, the Master World Championships athletic games & a Scottish Dance Competition to name just a few. The festival is volunteer run and a lot of fun to work on. The Downtown Merchants Association is always looking for help with their events. Of course the city has several commissions that give our residents an opportunity to participate in the development of city goals and policy regarding parks, the environment, and other areas of interest. The city website is developing a volunteer link that our residents can utilize to find an area that you might like to participate in. Please look for updates at www.saline-city.org.
Finally, a sense of community is developed by attending the activities that a community offers. Since my last report there have been many opportunities. Downtown events including Summerfest, Harvest of the Arts, the holiday parade and the Christkindlmarket were bigger and better than last year. The historical society coordinates the volunteers that keep our museums open every Saturday and develops special events like Harvest Day and Christmas at the Farm. In addition, the first ever holiday homes tour, held on South Ann Arbor Street, was a huge success. Thanks go to Terri Sibo-Koenig and Calesta Harrison for chairing this excellent showcase of our newest historic district.
We hope that you will take advantage of the opportunities in this new year to join in community activities. Whether that means walking the new labyrinth by the community garden, attending the next downtown event on Feb 7th, taking a class at the 212 Arts Center or participating in the adult volleyball league at the Rec Complex, it is your choice. But do choose to participate and continue to build a strong community here in Saline.
The other vital component in building a sense of community is the outreach that community organizations, including local government, does with its community members. How well do we listen to the needs and concerns of our residents and businesses regarding our services and activities? How much do you know about how local government works and what challenges or opportunities lay ahead for our community?
This year we will be addressing our long range planning through several processes. This month our commissions, staff, and the city council will be developing goals and objectives in their area of expertise. The city does a five year financial estimate that gives us a general sense of the direction we are heading. We will be updating our capital improvements document to incorporate the recommendations of the commissions, staff and any public input we receive.
Additionally, we will be doing another community survey, to give you a chance to give us feedback on potential projects and our quality of service. The city will also be preparing a document that will be accessible on our website that will outline our long range strategies, including capital projects, and what we will be accomplishing specifically in the next fiscal year.
I have had the great privilege of serving as the acting city manager for several months. What I learned during this time reinforced what I already believed. This community is extremely fortunate to have a highly dedicated cadre of employees that truly believe in providing the best service to our customers. It has been such a great experience working with our city staff on a daily basis. I think most of us take for granted our high level of services, ranging from quickly plowed streets to our safe neighborhoods. Our new city manager will recognize the caliber of our employees when he steps into his office. We are excited to be negotiating an offer because he recognizes that our major asset is our people, not only our employees but our residents and our business partners.
This is a principle that your city council also espouses. We are fortunate to have a very experienced council this year. Pat Little, Alicia Ping, Glenn Law, Kathy Roth and David Rhoads offer a wealth of experience and commitment to public service. Our newest councilmember Pat Ivey will be a great addition to our council. We have all worked together to bring new leadership to the city management position and it is clear that we all hold the same values in regard to our community.
So, as you can see, the future is bright for this community. Certainly these are trying times for our region and our country. However, due to the support of our citizens and our businesses, due to dedicated city employees and thoughtful elected leadership, Saline is well positioned to move successfully into the future.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Do you want to be a newscaster?

Have you ever watched the evening news and thought, "Where's the local news?" or "I could do that"?

Well, here's your chance. The Saline Reporter and The Milan News-Leader plan to launch a new weekly video newscast in which readers will read the local news straight from the paper before it goes to press Wednesday evening. We welcome anyone, from youngsters just learning to master the language to polished politicians, longtime residents, teens, aspiring thespians and your average neighbor.

Read the headline and first few paragraphs straight from our upcoming edition before it hits the street or spice up what we've written with your own color and commentary. Share the local news while also sharing your unique personality in a short, two-minute video.

If we get enough people who are interested, we'll draw names from a hat every week and announce in the paper who will be featured each week. The video will go live Wednesday evening before the paper comes out, allowing a sneak peak for readers at the front-page stories and sports news.

E-mail editor@salinereporter.com or editor@milannews.com if you want to participate. We'll be in touch.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Resolve to involve yourself in the new year

Here's an idea. Make your New Years Resolution one to benefit your hometown. Your community. There are a few commissions and committees at City Hall that have vacancies. All these are mayor-appointed positions. But, don't let that scare you. All you have to do is download two forms from the City Web site and drop them, or email to Dianne Hill, our wonderful City Clerk at 100 N. Harris. Come on. You know you want to. The Celtic Festival (via the Celtic Committee) needs another hand. The Parks Commission has a few open seats. The Environmental Commission will grow in the new year, too. Go to the Saline city site for more info TODAY. Don't delay. Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Ryan Michaels Gives Golden Globe Predictions, Part One

Hi, my name is Ryan Michaels, signing on from Hawaii, on editor Michelle Rogers' account. Over the past 7 months, you may have caught my movie reviews for Heritage Newspapers. If not, you can go to www.heritagemoviereviews.blogspot.com...Anyways, with the awards season coming up for movies I have decided to do predictions for the big award in the Golden Globes, airing on ABC Jan. 13, and will give my reasons.

BEST PICTURE - DRAMA

AND THE NOMINEES ARE:

- "American Gangster"
WITH: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin
PLOT: A drug kingpin is brought down. Violence ensues.

- "Atonement"
WITH: Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Saorise Ronan, Vanessa Redgrave
PLOT: A young girl's lie destroys all happiness in three lives.

- "Eastern Promises"
WITH: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel
PLOT: A gangster falls for a housewife who accidently uncovers evidence against him.

- "The Great Debaters"
WITH: Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Denzel Whitaker
PLOT: In 1935, a black college debate team challenges the country's thoughts on racism.

- "Michael Clayton"
WITH: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack
PLOT: A burnout lawyer stumbles upon a huge case with deadly consequences.

- "No Country for Old Men"
WITH: Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin
PLOT: A hunter stumbles upon $2 million in drug money, and chaos ensues.

- "There Will Be Blood"
WITH: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano
PLOT: A greedy oilman and a charismatic priest face off.

OK. The voters of the Golden Globes depend widely on popularity and drama, so "Eastern Promises" is out. "The Great Debaters" has positive reviews, but doesn't have the scope and story to win over voters. I have seen "Michael Clayton" and loved it, but when's the last time The Hollywood Foreign Press gave a legal thriller the big award? Didn't think so. "There Will Be Blood" has universally positive reviews, but The Foreign Press doesn't give awards to dramatic period pieces. So now it's down to this.

- "American Gangster"
- "Atonement"
- "No Country for Old Men"

American Gangster is incredibly popular and widely seen, a big boost. Atonement is a big decades-spanning love story, a category The Foreign Press goes for. And No Country for Old Men is a tense, well-written thriller. The Foreign Press will make this a close race, but I personally think that No Country for Old Men is out, because not enough people have seen it, a standard for thrillers. American Gangster isn't really in the Oscar race anymore, so I think that...

Atonement will win. It's a love story. It's complex. It has a lot of big stars. It has a big, flashy twist ending. The Foreign Press loves these factors, but don't take my word for it. Find out Jan. 13, on ABC.

Ryan Michaels from Oahu, Hawaii, signing off.

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