Detroit Regional Chamber Statement on Proposed City Charter Revision

DETROIT (April 29) – Detroit’s rebirth is no more a foregone conclusion today than it was when it
emerged from the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy. The recommended amendments to the charter put the city on a perilous fiscal path that undermines the progress made since.

After the hard-fought achievements of the Grand Bargain, we should not throw away that financial discipline only to replace it with a $2 billion hole in the city’s budget. The financial imbalance the charter revisions generate will harm the city’s ability to deliver needed services to its residents and sends a message of financial instability to current and potential businesses while risking another painful trip through bankruptcy.

Over the past few years, Detroiters worked hard to show the world that the City is a great place where businesses and workers can succeed, with a well-functioning city government. The charter adds cumbersome bureaucracy that will curtail both economic development efforts and efficient service delivery to residents. This additional bureaucracy will also hamper the city’s ability to accelerate out of the pandemic shutdowns and make the most of the American Rescue Plan resources.

Furthermore, during a time when policing is top of mind for everyone, these revisions dilute accountability of policing in the city and prevent the ability of the Mayor to effectively oversee public safety.

Coming out of the pandemic, Detroit is yet again facing a historic moment. Strong, effective and fiscally sound government is needed to meet the challenge, which will be made more difficult should the proposed charter be enacted.

– Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Regional Chamber

April 30 | This Week in Government: Reopening Tied to Vaccines; Workgroup Releases Return-to-Office Recommendations

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. In Dramatic Change, Reopening Tied to Vaccinations
  2. Workgroup Releases Employer Recommendations for Returning to Work
  3. Census: Michigan Loses U.S. House Seat, First Time at 13 Since 1920s
  4. MEDC Details Pandemic Assistance for Businesses Before Senate Panel
  5. LEO Grilled Over Union Webinar, Pandemic Rulemaking

In Dramatic Change, Reopening Tied to Vaccinations

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for the first time since the pandemic began laid out specific metrics that will lead to the state eventually lifting all restrictions it has imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, tying the removal of capacity and gathering limits to the percentage of residents who receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is a creative way challenging us to rise to this moment and to meet it,” Gov. Whitmer said at a Thursday news briefing. “It’s an opportunity for us to all join arms and to make sure that we get to this goal.”

It is a phased-in approach, tied to the percentage of the population 16 and older that has received its first dose of a vaccine. As of Thursday, 49.6% of the population had received at least one dose.

The phase-in starts at 55%. Two weeks after the state hits that mark on the percentage of the population that has received its first dose, the requirement that all work be done remotely unless it can only be done in person will be lifted. A number of employer groups have urged the state to allow remote work to resume.

Once 60% of the population has had its first dose, the Department of Health and Human Services will increase capacity limits at indoor sports stadiums, funeral homes, conference halls, and banquet centers to 25%. Gym capacity will rise to 50% and the curfew on bars and restaurants will end.

When two weeks have passed after 65% of the population has received its first dose, Gov. Whitmer said all indoor capacity limits would be lifted, bringing to an end more than a year of restrictions on bars, restaurants, retailers, and others. Only social distancing requirements would remain.

Once the state hits 70%, DHHS will lift the epidemic order.

Business groups mostly praised the order, saying it meets what they have requested for some time to have specific metrics on when they can fully reopen. Gov. Whitmer said the plan was developed, in part, with the input of legislative leaders from both parties, though she did not say what input they provided that the plan incorporates.

The Legislature’s Republican leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), reacted tepidly to the announcement, calling it long overdue. Both have advocated for the state to lift its coronavirus limitations and restrictions.

Gov. Whitmer said a revised DHHS order will be coming in the next day that relaxes outdoor gathering limits and follows new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Whitmer said at the state’s current pace it could achieve 55% by the end of next week, meaning by late May the requirement for work to be done remotely could be lifted.

However, Gov. Whitmer said she did not have an estimate on when the state might hit the other thresholds. She was asked what would happen if the state fails to reach 70% having had their first dose and did not answer the question, saying only this plan depends on people getting vaccinated.

Besides Gov. Whitmer embracing specific measures to fully reopen the economy and social life in the state for the first time, the plan also marked a departure from the governor’s previous emphasis on reached 70% vaccinated status. That would mean 70% having received both doses, not just one dose. The state said about 95% of those taking a two-shot vaccine who have the first dose also have gotten their second dose within the required time period.

Gov. Whitmer was asked about deciding to embrace a metric-based opening rather than weighing a multitude of factors put into context, as her administration has used until now.

“For 11 out of the last 15 months, we didn’t have vaccines. And so we couldn’t tie something to a metric that isn’t really the best tool that we have to get back to normal,” she said, calling the vaccine metric one that will make sense to the public.

There is one significant caveat to the plan.

Gov. Whitmer cautioned that under her plan, if new cases remain greater than 250 per 1 million people as a seven-day average in a Michigan Economic Recovery Committee region at the time of lifting restrictions that accompany reaching 60 or 65%, DHHS may delay implementation in that MERC region.

Currently, only the Upper Peninsula and 17 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula are below the 250 new cases per million in the previous seven days metric. However, Michigan’s case numbers are falling rapidly.

“We believe this is unlikely, but it’s an important safety valve in case something unexpected were to happen,” she said.

DHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said the administration also is looking at options to ease restrictions for summer festivals and golf tournaments.

Gov. Whitmer received her second vaccine dose Thursday and said she is planning a small gathering with friends she hasn’t seen in months for two weeks from now.

“We’re going to have a few Oberons. We’re going to share some laughs,” she said. “We’re going to share some strategies on how to best embarrass our children.”

Throughout the pandemic, as Republicans in the Legislature opposed the restrictions Gov. Whitmer put in place, she vowed not to negotiate public health. Asked how recent discussions with legislators fit within that pledge, Gov. Whitmer said taking input and negotiating are very different.

“I think that we all share the goal of getting our state out of this pandemic. What we have articulated here is the path out, and I know that’s been important to – whether it’s business leaders or legislative leaders – we have I think had robust conversations,” she said. “I’m grateful for the time and energy the legislative leaders – all four – have put in toward sharing their thoughts and we’ve shared a lot of information, and I think this product represents some of the best of the work we have been able to do together.”

Gov. Whitmer did not, however, answer a question as to what input legislators provided that her administration incorporated into the plan.

And Shirkey and Wentworth seemed less than enthused at what Gov. Whitmer unveiled.

“It took 400 days too long for the governor to be straightforward about how she will navigate this disease,” Shirkey said in a statement. “By the way, I now know what the governor’s definition is of a ‘good faith effort.'”

It was not clear what Shirkey meant with his comment about a good faith effort.

Wentworth was more positive but still indicated it falls short.

“Far too many Michigan families were pushed to the brink by the state’s heavy-handed and ineffective response to the pandemic,” he said in a statement. “People lost their jobs, kids fell behind in school, and critical benefits came up empty. Republicans in the state Legislature listened to the people and fought for Michigan families. I’m glad we took a stand for the people we represent and used every tool at our disposal to get the governor to this point. Now we need to continue to push to improve this plan and make it work for the people who are still waiting for a real light at the end of the tunnel.”

A couple times during her news briefing, Gov. Whitmer referenced the state being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic.

REACTION: The plan received praise from organized labor and health groups and cautious optimism from business groups.

“We’re grateful to the governor for soliciting input from working folks through this process and proud to have played a vital role in laying out a path to gradually getting back to normal while keeping people safe,” said Josh Pugh of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We’ll continue to work with the Protect Michigan Commission to get every single one of our 1 million active and retired members vaccinated and look forward to the governor’s support in these efforts.”

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said the plan is just one more reason for everyone 16 and older in Michigan to get vaccinated.

Some employer groups and the Reopen Michigan Safely Coalition have been alarmed that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration had begun the process of implementing regular rules to replace the emergency rules now in effect governing workplace operations during the pandemic. Wendy Block, vice president of business advocacy and member engagement at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement the new plan looks positive because businesses are encouraging and providing incentives for vaccination as the path to reopening.

Block cautioned though that the Chamber awaits the Whitmer administration’s plans for altering or eliminating MIOSHA’s emergency and regular rules on workplaces.

Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, praised the plan the governor unveiled.

“The objective benchmarks laid out in the reopening plan are a welcome and critical development. These clear, simple, and objective measures give small businesses some certainty and ability to plan for the future,” Calley said in a statement. “We hope that further clarity will be provided soon, with revised epidemic emergency orders and amended MIOSHA emergency rules.”

The hard-hit hospitality sector welcomed the plan while also making clear they wished this had come long ago.

“We applaud the governor for implementing what the MRLA has been requesting for months – a metric driven plan that offers incentives rather than mandates to drive better outcomes and more opportunity for the imperiled hospitality industry,” said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. “We will continue our partnership with this administration to provide new avenues for restaurants and hotels to inspire and incentivize greater vaccination rates of all Michiganders so that we may quickly move past the era of capacity limits, gathering restrictions, and mitigation.”

Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said the plan is a good step but also warned attaining 65% of those with a first vaccine dose – when restaurants and bars would see the current 50% capacity limit end – could be a ways off.

“Phase 2, which will expand operations for large indoor venues, will help those businesses that have had to cancel weddings, fundraisers, and events for more than a year,” Mr. Ellis said in a statement. “While bars and restaurants are looking forward to reaching Phase 4, for a full reopening, we wish more was included for our industry in earlier phases. Currently, surrounding states are following guidelines that we won’t hit until the third phase.”

Workgroup Releases Employer Recommendations for Returning to Work

A state workgroup on Thursday provided employers several recommendations on safety measures to consider on keeping workers safe when they can return to work in person, saying providing clarity and strong mitigation measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is critical.

The Return to Office Workgroup provided a set of recommendations based on policies and guidance from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Health and Human Services. Also provided was guidance on best practices on keeping employees safe.

Reducing the density of employees in the office to increase safety is one recommendation. Methods such as hybrid work strategies to keep people properly distanced were suggested, as was considering remote work when feasible.

It was recommended to stagger entry time for employees due to daily health screenings to prevent congestion at entrances as well as staggering times for work to begin and end for the same reason.

Workplace policies should clearly outline the ability to quarantine or isolate due to possible COVID-19 exposure and get tested without fear of job loss.

Another recommendation was promoting the use of sick leave time credits to provide paid leave available to employers with under 500 employees. The same was recommended for the use of family leave tax credits available to employers with under 500 employees.

Employers should also consider implementing policies for return to workplaces that provide employees with caregiving obligations with the ability to continue working remotely, such as for individuals who are caring for immune-compromised individuals.

Vaccination information should also be provided to employees, it was recommended, as well as links to vaccine sites and sign-up information. Consideration should be given to partnering with a local public health department to offer on-site vaccination.

Sean Egan, deputy director of labor with the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, said the recommendations are just that, recommendations.

Egan said the group “tried to identify things to flag for employers to keep in mind” as employees begin to return to work.

“It’s going to be important for employers to be prepared,” Egan said.

He said the recommendations are items that should be taken into consideration along with other mitigation measures that may be required upon returning to work in person.

Egan said the recommendations are good ideas for employers to weigh given the governor’s announcement earlier Thursday of metrics for the lifting of restrictions as the percentage of residents who have had at least one vaccine dose reaches certain thresholds.

One of the metrics announced Thursday was that two weeks after 55% of residents 16 and older have had their first vaccine dose that the requirement for all work to be done remotely unless it can only be done in person will be lifted. The metric for in-person work could be reached as soon as this week or next week, opening the door for employees to return to workplaces as soon as late May.

The workgroup began meeting March 15 to develop the recommendations.

Census: Michigan Loses U.S. House Seat, First Time at 13 Since 1920s

Lagging growth across the Midwest was at least one reason for Michigan’s loss of a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after apportionment figures were released, leaving it with just 13, the U.S. Census Bureau announced Monday.

The bureau announced which states would lose, gain, or keep their current apportionment during a livestreamed news conference announcing the first results of the 2020 census.

Michigan was expected to lose a seat in this round, as it has every 10 years since 1970, when the state had its highest number of U.S. House seats at 19. The last time Michigan had 13 seats was throughout the 1920s before rising to 17 through the 1930s and 1940s.

Data from the bureau showed the state’s apportionment population at 10.08 million, with a resident population of 10.07 million and an overseas population of 7,111. In 2010, the bureau counted an apportionment population of 9.91 million in Michigan, with 9.88 million residents and 27,986 people living overseas.

The state was among seven to lose a seat, including California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, officials with the bureau said Monday.

Florida, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon gained one seat. Texas gained two.

Michigan was expected to lose a seat in this round of the census, continuing a longstanding trend, but some noted that the seat shift in 2020 was slightly smaller overall than expected.

The state joined New York, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Arizona, California, Virginia, Idaho, and New Jersey in the Top 10 runner-up states to almost gain an additional seat, which would have kept Michigan at 14 should that have panned out.

Michigan’s priority rank value was listed at 444 between Idaho and New Jersey. Of interesting historical note, Michigan was first runner-up to gain a seat in the 1940 census, which would have brought it to 18 if it had an additional 5,692 residents.

Three states lost population – Illinois, Mississippi, and West Virginia – but Michigan still lost a seat even though it grew its population by 2% over the last decade.

The bureau has ranked Michigan the 10th most populous state behind North Carolina (which gained one) and Georgia (which remained the same).

Overall, however, the Midwest saw the lowest rate of population growth compared to other national regions, with the U.S South growing by 10.2%, the West by 9.2%, the Northeast by 4.1%, and the Midwest by just 3.1%.

The loss of a seat in the U.S. House also means the loss of a presidential Electoral College vote.

With Michigan’s redistricting process for the first time even being overseen by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, it is yet unknown as to which of Michigan’s delegation in the House would potentially see their seat disappear.

Those in political circles on social media have already begun to speculate which among them would be losing their district and which would be mapped together, possibly resulting in intraparty primaries particularly on the Democratic side of the ticket.

MEDC Details Pandemic Assistance for Businesses Before Senate Panel

Supports to help manufacture millions of personal protective equipment, coronavirus pandemic response programs, and work to retain jobs in all of Michigan’s 83 counties were just some of the efforts enacted by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation during the hardest months of 2020.

Members of the MEDC detailed those accomplishments and some of the challenges in doing so on Wednesday before the Senate Finance Committee.

Presenting was MEDC’s Chief Operating Officer Amanda Bright McClanahan and Greg Bird, the group’s managing director of legislative and external affairs.

McClanahan said she hoped the presentation would give the Senate committee a better understanding of how the MEDC has supported businesses of all shapes and sizes throughout the state during the pandemic, and how that support helped those businesses sustain economic prosperity last year and hopefully in the years ahead.

“I will be candid with you, (our) mission was put to the test over the last 14 months in so many ways with the incredible uncertainty and challenges that we faced in 2020,” McClanahan said. “We have done everything we can to respond with agility to expand existing programs and to develop specific relief efforts to face not only the crisis that we saw beginning in April of last year, but as we continue to move toward economic recovery and we keep our eye on the future needs of the state.”

The group did so through programs like the Michigan Business Relief Program, which provided $20 million in small business grants and loans, and through a program in partnership with the Legislature to include $100 million in small business relief through the Michigan Restart Program.

MEDC also expanded during the pandemic every program and tool it has, including its Capital Access Program and others for procurement support, connection, international trade, entrepreneurship, and additional innovation initiatives.

Further, the group engaged growth in its community development supports, much like its maritime program, and various mobility efforts that can be tracked now in real-time.

A toolkit for businesses was also added, which has been made available online.

Data on the MEDC website, which was also presented by McClanahan, shows those efforts launched 23 response programs, supported 25,000 companies, and helped retain more than 200,000 jobs.

While the MEDC assisted each of Michigan’s 83 counties, at least 45% of assistance was dedicated to disadvantaged regions of the state.

The largest beneficiary of those supports was the service industry, which includes several businesses that were heavily impacted by COVID-19 health orders and a lack of regular customers, like fitness, recreation, arts and entertainment, personal care, professional services, and accommodations.

Restaurants and bars received the second-largest among of support from the MEDC last year, followed by businesses engaged in other activities like nonprofit work and transportation.

The retail industry received the third-highest amount of support, followed by construction, maintenance, and repair, health care, manufacturing, and agriculture.

To help assist the manufacturing of PPE, McClanahan said the tool to bear in that regard was the MEDC’s matchmaking resources and assistance with securing retooling grants so they could pivot their focus to producing those supplies.

When asked by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) about how many manufacturers continued PPE-making operations, McClanahan said she could get back to the committee with more information. She did say, however, that several of them made the permanent pivot to creating PPE supplies, which is a notable new market transition.

That said, MEDC did identify gaps in what businesses need in terms of support from them, the state, and the federal government.

“In particular, we remain concerned about businesses that have nine employees or less, businesses that are located in rural communities and businesses that are early tech startups in the very early stages,” McClanahan said. “Many of these businesses did not have access to a number of the federal and state tools that were available and they continue to need support as we move through the recovery phase.”

Additional challenges in the year ahead for MEDC include broadband access and tourism supports.

To address broadband issues, like infrastructure and technology adoption, McClanahan said MEDC has convened a group of stakeholders to examine those hurdles and to help leverage state and federal funding. Already, the MEDC has helped secure an additional $363 million in federal funding to be aimed expanding broadband access.

The future of Michigan tourism faces unique pandemic-related challenges, but McClanahan said the MEDC is continuing to encourage residents to shop local, visit family-owned restaurants and bars, and retail shops in the hearts of the state’s downtown areas.

McClanahan said the pandemic has taught those businesses how to continue operations safely in a pandemic, but more support is needed.

Thankfully, she said, the reignition of Pure Michigan will be helpful in that regard. MEDC is excited to have that program back online after being dormant years earlier, McClanahan added, and has already launched a comeback commercial stating that Michigan is “still pure” and “still here” after a year of turmoil due to COVID-19.

Additional advertising will be aimed at inviting residents to “catch up” with one another at Michigan tourist hotspots, she said, after being away from loved ones and friends through the pandemic.

In other business, the committee reported SB 378, sponsored by committee chair Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), which provides a qualified child tax credit. More specifically, the bill would establish a $500, nonrefundable tax credit for every child in a family up to 19 years old. It would also allow taxpayers to get back their own money paid on their taxes up to the $500 per dependent.

The credit includes a four-year sunset so Michigan residents could claim the credit for tax

Runestad said the bill was important as constituents and recent news articles have suggested that the cost of having children is keeping couples from having them.

Simply put, the senator said, child care costs are also consuming families that already have them.

He also said that he has anecdotally heard of constituents choosing to not get married as a way of avoiding heavier tax burdens. That degradation of family life – either marriage or raising a child – by way of tax burdens would “harm” society in the long run.

In a separate statement, Runestad said Michigan must continue to invest in families.

“We can invest in families who live and work in Michigan, so they stay and can afford to raise their family here,” he said. “This child tax credit would provide real tax relief, incentivize hard work, and invest in Michigan families right now when they need it most. I look forward to getting this legislation passed and making a real difference for families in our community.”

The bill was reported 6-0 to the Senate floor with Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) abstaining on the bill. Sen. Betty Alexander (D-Detroit) was not present.

LEO Grilled Over Union Webinar, Pandemic Rulemaking

Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity officials were subjected to questioning Tuesday by a Senate panel over a recent webinar outlining the union forming process as well as efforts to craft possible permanent workplace rules related to the coronavirus pandemic.

They were actions Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), chair of the Senate Appropriations Labor and Economic Opportunity/MEDC Subcommittee, said will likely lead to recommended changes to the department’s budget.

Horn questioned LEO Acting Director Susan Corbin and LEO Deputy Director of Labor Sean Egan at length over the webinar and rulemaking process. No recommendations on the LEO budget were made during the hearing.

The hearing stems from criticism by Republicans over an email announcement by the department last Thursday that it would be holding a webinar on Monday evening with Egan along with Dan Molenda, a field examiner with the National Labor Relations Board.

The original intent of the webinar was to “discuss the step on how to organize a union for private sector employees.” Later Thursday the meeting was amended, with Mr. Molenda said to be participating in a separate future event and Egan instead hosting a discussion on the election process of forming a union.

Drawing further ire from Horn were recent reports that the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed possible permanent workplace rules for enactment following the expiration of the emergency rules put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m primarily concerned with the department’s complete failure to communicate with the Legislature,” Horn said of recent department activities. “If we aren’t partners in policymaking that makes it darn hard to be partners in the budget process.”

Egan defended the webinar during questioning, saying it was part of overall educational opportunities provided by the department. Egan said over the past year he has been involved with about 110 webinars dealing with various programs and general information on rules and regulations.

Horn countered by saying that there have been significant impacts on the business community and the state during the coronavirus pandemic.

“In the midst of this pandemic when all resources have been stretched beyond their limits, do you believe that this initiative, this webinar, is the best use of our time and people’s money?” Horn said.

Egan said that, again, the webinar was part of ongoing educational outreach to employers and employees statewide.

“I would keep this in the context of recognizing that this was a half-hour webinar, you know, put together in a few hours over the course of a couple of weeks, so it wasn’t as though we’ve diverted a lot of time and energy into putting this thing together,” Egan said.

When asked if he organized the webinar, Egan said yes.

“We recognized pretty quickly that the name created a lot of ire,” Egan said. “It was an unbiased webinar focused solely on the Public Employment Relations Act. We didn’t lean one way or the other through the webinar … and we just used information that’s been available through our public employee relations manual for the last 20-plus years.”

Egan said the purpose was to point out that the rules exist and that employees can make their own choice on the topic of unionization.

He was also asked how word of the webinar came out. Egan said it was sent to all subscribers to the LEO email list.

Horn also asked about reports that the temporary workplace rules might be made permanent, questioning why the department was, in his view, going it alone. He noted that the pandemic might not be over by October, when the extension of the temporary rules will expire.

“This is the time to come to the Legislature,” Horn said.

Corbin explained that it was unclear what the situation may look like in October.

“We are just doing that in anticipation of the need to perhaps have a … some kind of contingency rule in place,” Corbin said. “It’s not something that happens quickly, so we knew that we needed to start the rulemaking process for a potential COVID rule.”

Horn again questioned why the Legislature was not being brought into the process.

“The only tool you have is to do this on your own is what I’m hearing,” Horn said.

Egan said under the Administrative Procedures Act, the Legislature would have input later through the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

JCAR, however, has little authority. It cannot block the rules from taking effect.

Further questioning by Horn was over whether the department intends to make the temporary rules permanent. He also asked under what criteria could the temporary rules be withdrawn.

Egan said the department has been closely following federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, noting that changes could be coming to rules based on guidance involving vaccination at some point.

If a safety hazard still exists in the workplace, Egan, MIOSHA would have an obligation and responsibility to protect all workers.

No action on the budget was taken Tuesday, but Horn said he plans to make additional recommendations on the LEO budget soon.


Michigan’s Return-to-Office Workgroup Releases Recommendations for Transitioning to In-Person Work

Celebrating Diverse Voices Town Hall with University of Detroit Mercy President Antoine Garibaldi

 “The first thing to say is a college education is possible and affordable.”

The University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) President Antoine Garibaldi joined Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, and a virtual audience for the fifth installment of the Chamber’s Celebrating Diverse Voices Town Hall series. This session focused on how creating equitable access to higher education opportunities can impact communities. Dr. Garibaldi shared how his university’s tuition reset is allowing more first-generation college students from Detroit to attend UDM, and the Live6 Alliance is helping the university’s McNichols campus connect with the surrounding neighborhood.

A mission focused on creating equitable access and diversity

Founded in 1877, the University of Detroit Mercy is a private, Catholic University in Detroit, and is one of the largest Catholic universities in Michigan with three campuses and more than a hundred academic degrees and programs of study.

Seeking ways to expand the university’s enrollment, diversity has always been a top priority for the university given its long history as a higher education institution in the city, said Dr. Garibaldi, who has served as UDM’s 25th president since 2011.

Recent years and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has only influenced UDM to remain committed to its mission of providing educational opportunities to students with underprivileged backgrounds.

“We’re here in a pandemic. And last year, 7% fewer students went to college, nationally,” said Dr. Garibaldi. “Many of those students were students who came from high-poverty schools, and that’s one of those areas that we really need to condense. And just, for example, 15% of students who came from high-poverty schools last year went to college, compared to about 60% in the previous year and more than 70% students from less poverty and more wealthy schools.”

This equity gap, Dr. Garibaldi said, is one of the reasons why UDM reset its undergraduate tuition in 2018, dropping from $41,158 to $28,000.

The university has also pursued and received national grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation due to one-third of its student population being comprised of first-generation college students.

“That’s pretty much what it was like in the early history of the university. In fact, very few people had the opportunity to go to college [back then]. It’s a part of our mission,” said Dr. Garibaldi.

‘The first thing to say is that a college education is possible and is affordable’

Before coming to Detroit, Dr. Garibaldi worked in higher education in other cities such as New Orleans, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., and Erie, Pennsylvania. The long-time educator said he’s seen similarities and differences between to Detroit when it comes to efforts to increase education equity and postsecondary attainment.

“One of the things I really try to do is tap into what students are looking for and what parents are looking for. We try to build on those relationships,” explained the long-time educator.

Dr. Garibaldi also said he’s often found that students are not aware of what their opportunities are in pursuing higher education.

“It’s very important for students to expand their horizons. That’s why we talk about Build a Boundless Future because that’s really something every student in high school should really think about even through our dual enrollment program,” explained Dr. Garibaldi.

Additionally, the university president said that when engaging students, particularly those of color, who live in urban areas, educators, education advocators, recruiters, and mentors alike should first make clear how accessible attending college can be. “The first thing to say is that a college education is possible and is affordable,” said Dr. Garibaldi.

He said helping students understand their financial background and the scholarships offered can help remove their fear of pursuing a higher education. Dr. Garibaldi also said supplying incoming students with successful mentors that have backgrounds similar to their own can have tremendous impact on motivation levels and overall outlook.

Connecting McNichols campus with the surrounding neighborhood through Live 6 Alliance

Formed in 2015 through a partnership of community, philanthropic, and city stakeholders led by UDM, the Live6 Alliance’s mission is to enhance the quality of life and economic opportunity in Northwest Detroit. At the center of Live6 Alliance’s place-based investment strategy is Detroit’s Livernois and McNichols (6 Mile) commercial corridors – the location of UDM’s McNichols campus.

“The work we’ve been able to do in terms of the neighborhood and the city is largely spurred by some of the service learning our students get involved in around the city,” shared Dr. Garibaldi. “When we think about opportunities to support students, it’s not always through scholarships. Sometimes, it’s funding programs where our students really get the opportunity to participate on a very active basis.”

For more information on the various student services and programs provided by UDM, visit the following:

Leading real estate attorney specializing in condemnation and eminent domain joins Butzel Long; Darius W. Dynkowski has devoted career to protecting property rights

DETROIT, Mich. – Butzel Long is growing to meet client needs with the addition of Darius W. Dynkowski who joined the firm as a shareholder. Notably, Butzel Long’s Real Estate Practice Group is one of the firm’s largest practice teams.

Based in Butzel Long’s Detroit office, Dynkowski concentrates his practice in the areas of condemnation and eminent domain, inverse condemnation and defacto takings, regulatory takings, property tax appeals, real estate valuation litigation, general real estate litigation including easements, leases, property line disputes, and all other aspects of real property dispute resolution in both state and federal courts. He is fully licensed in Michigan and Ohio and has handled matters nationally.

Dynkowski has devoted his career to protecting private property rights and specializes in all aspects of real estate and business valuation. He has guided his career on the basic premise that no one should be forced to face the involuntary loss of their property by a governmental agency without representation. Dynkowski has spent the last 25 years fighting city hall on behalf of his clients who range from homeowners to national corporations. The types of properties he has handled include residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, and special purpose properties.

He has served as the lead attorney on several matters that have resulted in compensation exceeding the original offer by at least $1 million against governmental agencies and utility companies.

Notably, Dynkowski served as the Chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Real Property Land Use and Environmental Group Condemnation Committee. In 2009, Chambers USA recognized Dynkowski as one of the best eminent domain attorneys in the country. In 2012, Michigan Lawyers Weekly named Dynkowski a Leader In The Law. In addition, he has been featured in the Michigan Super Lawyers magazine, Best Lawyers in America and has an AV rating from Martindale Hubble.

He also has served as an adjunct professor at Michigan State University College of Law, is a frequent lecturer nationally, and has authored numerous articles on eminent domain. In June 2009, Dynkowski was appointed by former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to serve two terms on the State of Michigan Real Estate Appraiser Licensing Board.

Dynkowski earned a Juris Doctor degree from Michigan State University College of Law in 1996. He is a 1993 graduate of Wayne State University.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as an alliance office in Beijing. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting or follow Butzel Long on Twitter:

This Changes Everything

By Paul A. Eisenstein 

Post-pandemic, the Auto Industry Will Never Be the Same  

Even before the viral outbreak reached American shores, the industry was entering a period of rapid transformation, with “more change in the next five years than we’ve seen in the last 50,” as GM CEO Mary Barra is fond of saying. But it was almost as if “you needed the pandemic” to get the industry to accept that old norms needed to be abandoned, adds Dave Zuchowski, former CEO of Hyundai Motor America and now a retail strategist.

It’s difficult to find any aspect of the industry that won’t be transformed over the course of the coming decade. But here are some of the most significant changes where the pandemic is playing a major role.

Countermeasures to be Increased to Boost Productivity in Post-covid Factories 

Automakers have put in place elaborate protocols to keep COVID-19 from spreading across factory floors. At least some of those changes will become permanent, manufacturing experts anticipate. While the immediate concern is COVID-19, social distancing, staggered start times and other protocols could have longer-term health benefits, especially in cold and flu seasons.

These restrictions have reduced productivity, in many cases, however. So, expect to see automakers and suppliers take countermeasures, among other things implementing greater automation. We may also see the use of entirely new technologies, such as additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. The potential downside could be a long-term reduction in employment.

Hybrid Sales Models to Meet Disparate Consumer Preferences 

One reason car sales rebounded so quickly by year’s end in 2020 was the shift to online retailing which took hold “three to five years faster than I expected,” says Mark LaNeve, the recently retired head of sales, service and marketing at Ford.

Volvo recently announced plans to shift sales entirely online, and many manufacturers have now launched new apps that allow buyers to handle everything from shopping to trade-ins and finance in a virtual environment. There are still plenty of motorists who want to kick the tires and go for a test drive, so the goal is to “let consumers handle the buying process the way they prefer,” says Anders Gustafsson, the CEO of Volvo Cars North America.

Dealer Inventories Reduced by Half to Reflect Real-time Demand 

The shutdown of the North American production network last spring resulted in a significant reduction in dealer inventory as the market began recovering. Initially, automakers raced to catch up but they are beginning to think twice about the old model which meant keeping an average 60 to 65 days of inventory on showroom lots. Going forward, they’ll likely want half that amount, forecasts Zuchowski, with the industry shifting from a classic push to a pull model, everything from manufacturing to marketing and distribution geared to meet real-time consumer demand.

Ride-sharing Forecast Murky at Best amid Ownership Resurgence 

Ironically, one of the biggest changes forecast before the pandemic may not now happen. It was widely expected that many Americans would shift from owning a vehicle to using ride-sharing services. By some estimates, that was set to reduce annual new vehicle sales by the millions.

The pandemic has led folks around the world to rethink how they travel, the latest annual “futurist” study by Ford finding 47% of those surveyed cutting back on the use of taxis and ridesharing – with 52% backing away from mass transit and 45% avoiding carpools. Early industry data suggests that vehicle sales are growing as a result. It’s anyone’s guess whether this trend will continue post-pandemic.

Conclusion: Pandemic’s Ripple Effect Will Touch All Areas of Innovation

There are plenty of other major changes sweeping through the industry. Sales of electric vehicles are expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, while autonomous and fully driverless vehicles could become commonplace within a decade. Even here, the pandemic is playing a role by encouraging broader transformation in the auto industry. Self-driving vehicles, in particular, could prove a solution for the ride-sharing industry, helping overcome concerns about the risk of being in a vehicle with a stranger.

So, while vaccines, masks and social distancing should soon help us regain some sense of normalcy in our daily lives, the pandemic will lead to many permanent changes in the automotive world.

The Rearview Mirror

By Paul Vachon 

COVID-19’s Impact on Business

When COVID-19 hit last year, most businesses large or small and from every market sector were caught off guard. Employers had to develop quick responses to the pandemic to protect employees and customers, often relegating normal operations to the back seat.

Each organization had to adjust to the new realities to assure safety and continuity, with each plan as unique as the business itself.

One example is the Narrow Way Café, an intimate shop offering coffee and baked goods on the Avenue of Fashion stretch of Livernois in Detroit typically employing around eight and owned by David Merritt.

Challenges Not for Faint of Heart

As it was for so many business owners in restaurant, hospitality, and entertainment industries, the challenge Merritt faced was not for the faint of heart. According to the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, restaurant sales statewide declined some 25% in 2020, while labor costs as a percent of sales increased.

Merritt’s response stressed the safety of his employees and customers including a period of complete closure from March through July.

Crisis Leads to Creative Solutions

When he reopened with reduced hours and menu offerings, he also rolled out a series of creative solutions including a walk-up carry-out window. When the colder weather set in, “to go” ordering was allowed indoors with proper precautions. Merritt also developed a customer facing smart phone app to accept online orders and schedule pick-up times.

While coffee can be ordered from a myriad of places using similar methods, Merritt worked to maintain customer loyalty by starting a Monthly Java Club, which delivers patrons a bag of beans each month from a surprise location: Costa Rica, Brazil, Ethiopia, or elsewhere.

No One-size-fits-all Approach for Business Amid Pandemic

On March 16, 2020, Emagine Entertainment, which owns and operates twelve movie theaters throughout Michigan, closed its venues per Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order shutting down bars, theaters, casinos, and limiting restaurants to carry-out and delivery. While reopenings were allowed later in the year, 2020 proved difficult.

Pivoting to alternate revenue methods was challenging, particularly for theaters which require in-person experiences, unlike restaurants that can offer delivery or carry-out options.

“We’re prevented by our agreements with the production studios from live streaming movies, except for a few small budget films,” explains Chairman Paul Glantz.

The Struggle of Remaining Viable

Costs were cut aggressively, but with an eye to the future. During the early months, employees were kept on, doing deep cleaning and painting projects. Eventually, however, all but the most senior staff were furloughed.

While the theaters normally employ about 1,100 full- and part-time workers, only about 50 were working as of March 19 as senior managers were kept on.

However, Emagine continued to pay healthcare premiums for furloughed employees on the company plan. “We were concerned about these people facing the double burden of unemployment and a lack of health insurance. We wanted them to know we care,” says Glantz.

Since the state allowed limited openings in December, Emagine has followed the protocols mandated under the CinemaSafe initiative of the National Association of Theatre Owners. The program is a comprehensive set of health and safety guidelines that mandate enhanced cleaning, improved ventilation, and employee training in recognizing COVID symptoms.

The Post Pandemic Office

While the dust has yet to settle on what the post-pandemic office looks like, one thing is clear. Employees, who began 2020 trudging to the office for the typical 9-to-5 grind but ended it on Zoom calls in slippers from their living room, will expect to retain some of that flexibility.

As offices reopen in 2021, employers of all sizes will grapple with questions regarding the configuration of work spaces, traffic flow patterns, and the long-term balance between work from home and working from the office. Shared spaces and individual working areas are not going to look like or be utilized how they were prior to COVID-19. The buzzwords of the emerging office paradigm are “hybrid” and “flexibility” both in terms of the work week and office design.

“Our focus throughout the pandemic has been to support the safety and well-being of our team members so that they can support our clients and community all while preparing for the future of work.

In this time where our team members are working remotely, we evolved our offices by reconfiguring floor layouts, renovating spaces and upgrading technology to optimize work between office and home.


Our new office layouts are designed to encourage collaboration while allowing safe distancing. Writable dividers were installed between each desk, and every workspace is treated with a MicrobeCare coating that protects against germs. We enhanced our cleaning protocols and utilize the highest standard HEPA/MERV filters to enhance air quality.

The hybrid working model is here to stay, but the office still plays an important role. In our future of work, we see our offices as a destination – a place for collaboration, creativity and connection with teammates.”

– Mike Malloy, Chief Amazement Officer, Rock Central

“At Bamboo, we believe the office isn’t dead, it’s bending. The office is becoming more flexible. Work from home burnout is a real mental health challenge we’re all experiencing, yet most do not want to return to a 9-to-5 office lifestyle. Co-working spaces will welcome these remote workers to their communities. Many companies are turning private offices at Bamboo into company collaboration rooms, or purchasing passes for employees to travel into a co-working space once or twice a week to complement working from home.

Co-working spaces operating successfully today have already socially distanced their floor plan, which may remain after the pandemic. Many spaces like Bamboo offer private options within a modern, inspiring, collaborative building. We believe successful co-working spaces will continue to offer this balance of privacy, collaboration, and new hybrid meeting styles for a more flexible workforce in the coming years.”

– Amanda Lewan, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Bamboo

“Post-pandemic offices can actually offer greater value to employees and employers than they have in the past, but must be planned in more forward-thinking ways. In a world where work can be done anywhere, offices need to be desirable, well-considered places for employees to do their best work. That means moving away from generic, open-office designs that were focused on supporting work that can now be done elsewhere.

Instead, offices should be diversified, providing a variety of shared work settings to support activities that often aren’t well supported at home such as informal social interaction, creative group work, and places for deep focus and concentration. Just as restaurants can thrive even when people can cook from home, offices can thrive in a work-from-anywhere world when they are designed to deliver great experiences.”

– Ryan Anderson, Vice President of Global Research and Insights, Herman Miller

“At DMS, we will see many changes to our office environment as we migrate back to the workplace. In some cases, we have expanded our office footprint to ensure appropriate social distancing is practiced. We’ve modified some workspaces and common areas to include plexiglass barriers and sanitizing stations. We’ve also shifted our mindset, recognizing that many employees can work effectively from anywhere and may not require dedicated office space. As such, we’ve converted a number of areas to shared office space, requiring mostly remote employees to reserve spaces on the days they plan to be in the facility. Additionally, we will continue to limit the number of people who gather in conference rooms and confined spaces. Our goal at DMS will always be to protect our people.”

– Monica Brand, Chief Human Resources Officer, Detroit Manufacturing Systems

Butzel Long attorney James S. Rosenfeld named to Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s ‘Go To Lawyers for Employment Law’ list

DETROIT, Mich. – Butzel Long attorney and shareholder James S. Rosenfeld is one of 20 attorneys named to Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s “Go To Lawyers for Employment Law.” The program honors leading lawyers in a particular field of law as nominated by their peers. Attorneys will be profiled in a special section of Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Notably, a “Michigan Go To Lawyer” is:

• An expert in his or her field, well-versed in the nuances of the case law, statutes and regulations clients will encounter.

• Experienced, with a record of success in many cases and/or transactions.

• A lawyer to whom other lawyers make referrals because of his or her expertise and accomplishments.

• A lawyer who can think creatively and identify all options for a client.

• A lawyer you would name when a friend needs legal help.

• A lawyer you might call yourself if you needed legal help in his or her field of expertise.

Rosenfeld is the previous manager of Butzel Long’s Labor and Employment Practice Group and practices in the area of labor and employment law. He has extensive experience in litigating a wide variety of labor and employment cases, including trial and appellate work in both state and federal court, as well as negotiating collective bargaining agreements, and handling labor arbitrations.

He frequently lectures and conducts training for employers and supervisors on various employment issues, including on harassment avoidance, diversity and inclusion and supervisor skills.

Rosenfeld is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center (J.D., 1986) and Harvard College (A.B., 1981, magna cum laude). He is a Fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, is listed in The Best Lawyers in America in Labor and Employment and is ranked by Chambers USA.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as an alliance office in Beijing. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting or follow Butzel Long on Twitter:

The Future of Workforce

The pandemic challenged the workforce in unprecedented ways, including the overall magnitude of its impact. It left no sector of the workforce unaffected. The crisis impacted the well-being and health of every single employee in some way, while also exposing systemic flaws and equity disparities at the workplace in a new light. In tumultuous times, employers are evaluating what workforce resiliency means and looking at how to strategically apply the long-term lessons brought on by the pandemic.

“While remote working was already on the rise pre-pandemic, adoption of telecommuting accelerated in response to the pandemic – permanently altering the way we now understand how work can be performed. Looking ahead, strategic workforce planning will demand greater focus on organizations ability to support their employees to “work from anywhere, anytime” – built on a framework that offers both temporal and location flexibility.

To effectively transition to this future, organizations must adopt a coordinated strategy at all levels. This includes rapidly adopting enabling technology solutions to raise the remote flexibility of jobs, while addressing the increased security and privacy concerns that come from more people working digitally. Additionally, employers must be prepared to address intrinsic motivations, individual challenges and new opportunities, by creating the psychological safety that considers the ‘whole’ employee while building a culture of trust necessary for individuals to thrive.”


“As we safely return to our offices, an issue that remains a priority for Honigman is our commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Khalilah V. Spencer serves as Inclusion, Equity and Social Responsibility Partner and a partner in the Litigation Department of our Detroit office. Recently in Michigan Lawyers Weekly, she wrote that societal issues like educational inequity, economic disparities and implicit bias need to be addressed before any significant gains for diversity are visible. It will take all of us, collectively, to address these persistent racial inequities before the legal profession mirrors our diverse nation.

As leaders at Michigan’s largest law firm, we are strongly committed to doing our part to encourage and ensure equal voice, opportunity and legal representation for African American people and other people of color. Taking this stand, together, means valuing and insisting on diversity, inclusion and racial equity at Honigman and in our communities.”


“Gender equity and diversity results in increased profitability, loyal and satisfied employees, and better strategic decisions. Yet, 51 percent of the work force today is already dissatisfied with the current status of gender equality in the workplace and are willing to move to a company and a culture where they observe gender equity as an imperative. Women know that they make up over half the workforce in the U.S., but they do not see that reflected in management, executive positions, and board composition, but they note that some companies are making real progress, and everyone is watching.

Employers must begin to address these issues head on. Pay equity is something your company can begin to address as is providing flexible work time for women with children. Companies can implement policies that level the playing field for all women. Gender equity will not be achieved in a quarter or a year, but must start today.”


“Transition, lack of control, and uncertainty are three important factors leading to higher stress, and risk to mental health. The pandemic led to expedited and fast transition of workspace, style, and relationships to a totally different format. Workers had very limited control over the transitions, and tremendous uncertainty about the form of changes and their timeline.

The same factors will be involved in transition out of the pandemic, mostly to hybrid systems of work, but the details are still unclear to individual workers. Advanced informing about the planned stepwise transition and involving the workers in such decisions will help provide sense of control and reduce uncertainty.

We know from previous pandemics that the negative mental health impact lingers long after the pandemic is over. We need to expand available mental health services. The silver lining is that because of the pandemic, all these services are available via telemedicine, which eases access.”


Taking Off?


As Delta’s Vice President of Airport Operations at Detroit’s Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Hussein Berry oversees the day-to-day operations for Delta’s second largest hub. This includes all customer service areas, ramp, baggage, cargo operations, and the Airport Control Center all of which encompasses over 2,000 Delta employees and business partners. Berry recently answered some key questions facing the industry.


Our Detroit hub has been key for those traveling for essential reasons during the pandemic and will continue to play an important role as one of Delta’s core U.S. hub operations. Detroit will be instrumental to building back flight services not only for our local customers, but across the U.S. and internationally. We will keep our focus on the cleanliness of our airports and planes. This includes the hospital-grade HEPA filters that have been a part of our modern fleet for many years before the pandemic and will, of course, continue to be on our flights. Customers can also book with us with more confidence and flexibility if their plans change.


We have seen evidence of pent-up demand for travel of all varieties and we are well positioned to safely increase service as demand continues to recover. Vaccinations across the U.S. and world will go a long way to driving increased confidence in travel. We expect that demand for domestic travel will recover beginning this year before international demand, but we are taking action to be ready for demand levels in the future.


The idea of a vaccination passport is a developing one. We do believe that some countries may require some proof of vaccination as a condition to enter. Whatever form that may take, we’ll be ready to give our customers that information when they book and before they arrive at the airport, so they’ll be ready when they arrive at their destination. Temperature checks have been a lesser tool from earlier on in the pandemic but again, may be something customers experience abroad.


We believe that business travel will recover though it may look differently than it did before the pandemic. Exactly when business travel demand returns is not yet known, but our business customers continue to tell us they look forward to getting back out there in person. Leisure and personal travel will also continue to be a key reason for our customers to choose Delta and we are ready for them when they are.


Delta is the only airline to block the middle seat through April 30. Although we are monitoring this closely, having this extra space on the aircraft continues to be something we hear from customers about for their comfort and peace of mind. We keep a close eye on demand trends and have the ability to add additional flights where it makes sense, so our customers have the choice and reliability they expect.