New service formula needed to salvage city


Photo by James Mitchell
Lincoln Park Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause (left) and newly-appointed City Manager Gregory Capote review financial plans at City Hall. Capote said the traditional formula of taxes-and-service may no longer work, and new models for providing to residents need to be applied.

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — It’s no secret what the problems are for the city of Lincoln Park, struggling along with most Downriver communities with declining populations and property values.

Less than a month into his tenure as city manager, Gregory Capote said the solution will likely be found in a new way of approaching the issues.

“We need to find other ways to deliver services to residents,” Capote said. “We need to develop a totally new model.”

Along with Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause, Capote said that declining property values forced the city to find ways to balance a $1 million general fund deficit. Last month, Krause said that there were no job eliminations anticipated as the city found ways to trim departmental budgets for the coming year.

However, temporary solutions do not solve long-term problems. Capote said that the conventional formula of property taxes supporting public services no longer adds up to a balanced budget, and development projects such as an anticipated Wal-Mart in the Lincoln Park Shopping Center at Southfield and Dix roads are a plus, but not a total solution.

The Wal-Mart plan, Capote said, may be the single biggest development project that Lincoln park has seen in 30 years. It’s encouraging that the company did the requisite research and determined that the city’s demographics support the project, but Capote said the business is not the long-term answer.

“We’re not going to solve it with Wal-Mart that won’t balance the books,” Capote said. “We need to rethink the model for delivering services to residents.”

Instead of relying on state funds and commercial property taxes to generate revenue, Capote said the preferred solution will be in forming authorities, cooperative projects with nearby cities and sub-contracting some services.

“The model has to change; I see us blazing that trail and working with other communities,” Capote said.

Capote was appointed last month by city council to fill the long-vacant city manager post last held by Steve Duchane, who resigned in October 2011. Capote most recently served with the Wayne County development office, and Diaz-Kruase said his business background should help attract commercial interests to Lincoln Park.

Wal-Mart is one piece of the puzzle, he said, as are individual retail outlets such as Starbucks that bring compatible enterprises to help fill empty lots and storefronts.

Businesses alone, however, won’t answer the problem using the formula of the past.

“At the end of the day, we gotta deliver services,” Capote said.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)