Community Task Force literally puts ‘community’ into tough financial decisions facing Dearborn

DEARBORN, Mich. – In these extraordinary economic times, Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr. has taken extraordinary measures to seek fresh and informed perspectives about the challenging financial decisions facing the City by gathering a task force of 30 community and business leaders.

The volunteer members of the Community Task Force represent residents, businesses, institutions, organizations, neighborhood groups, and boards and commissions from across the City.

They reflect real life, grassroots opinions about what Dearbornites cherish, and all have a personal understanding of Dearborn’s tradition of offering outstanding municipal services.

But the members also understand that immediate budget challenges compel the City to prioritize services in a dramatic way.

With a decline in resources, personnel and revenue, the City must preserve, and in some cases, reinvent, the programs residents value the most, and identify those services that will position Dearborn best for the long run.

The task force will generate the framework for a 5-year strategic plan.

It is hoped the strategic plan will be used as a reference point for discussions between the Mayor and the City Council regarding proposed annual budgets.

The goal is to have the work of the task force positively influence the fiscal year 2011 budget now being developed by the Mayor’s administration, and offer insightful opportunities for the FY12 budget and beyond.

Mayor O’Reilly knows it is no easy assignment.

“I’m grateful for the tremendous commitment that these outstanding representatives have made to our community by being part of this task force. Their commitment goes beyond the time they will spend reviewing financial reports, talking with city employees and discussing the details of city services and programs.

“What they are really committing to is helping us identify a model for adapting to this new economic mode and ensure our community’s future,” he said.

“We can’t go back to the way things were. But just because our future will be different, doesn’t mean it won’t be based on the essential elements that have always defined this great community,” he said.

That includes a responsive, effective City government working with responsible and engaged community partners.

By tapping into the expertise of respected community representatives, and giving them a structured forum for discussions, the Mayor hopes that recommendations about services, programs and facilities will be based on a comprehensive understanding of the City’s finances and operations.

That way, the City can focus on genuine opportunities and challenges that lead to positive and productive actions.

“Like our residents, the task force members are customers of the City’s many services, and I’m sure that as individuals, they all have favorite programs that they wouldn’t want to see changed in any way,” he said.

“But I’m confident that when they are presented with all of the challenges we face, they will take into account what is best overall for our community.”

Mayor O’Reilly is hoping that residents will want to share insights with the task force. The plan is to have a website soon for posting comments for consideration.

Insights can also be sent to: Community Task Force, c/o the Department of Public Information, 13615 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, MI 48124.