Visionary population growth report is unfortunately bound for a shelf


Could you imagine if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s population growth council had Fairy Godmother-like powers?

Instead of turning a pumpkin into a stagecoach, a swipe of the wand could transform Detroit’s sewer lines into a beautiful subway system.

POOF! Big, beautiful maples become stoutly built 2,000-square-foot  homes.

Better yet, it could cut right to the chase and turn squirrels into 20-something tech wizards married to handy skilled tradespeople to install electricity, plumbing, or whatever.

Sorry. The Growing Michigan Together Council was a collection of mere mortals, well-meaning visionaries without any superpowers ... or without any powers at all, which ends up being the problem.

We’re counting on people who have power (elected officials) to have the courage of someone else’s convictions. It’s the standard cause of death for these types of studies.

Assuming the council’s 86-page report is available in some written form, it’s destined to end up on a shelf. More than likely, it will be completely forgotten by Valentine’s Day.

It’s not because of the content. The report calls for throwing Michigan’s K-12 education system into the dustbin and replacing it with a tailored preK-14 path that trains kids to specifically develop marketable skills and career goals.

If Michigan can create a large pool of well-trained students, at least some of them are bound to stay in Michigan to create vibrant communities. This will attract other well-educated students from other states and countries.

By 2050, Michigan will be among the top 10 states in the country in population growth. That’s the idea, anyway.

It’s a great vision crafted by some influential people. Like the University of Michigan president. DTE’s chief legal counsel. The former president of the building trades union. The CEO of a Detroit-based economic development think tank.

Given six months to whip up a roadmap on how to improve Michigan’s sagging population growth numbers, the council didn’t come up with the buzz words. You know, the ones that drive politicians to do what politicians want to do.

The council doesn’t issue a call to increase taxes for more school district money, or one to “fix the damn roads,” as the governor and other Democrats might want.

The council doesn’t call for tax cuts, as Republican legislators might want.

There’s no expensive programs — like free college for all or $20,000 down payments for first-time homebuyers — in this report.

Instead, it challenges public leaders to create a plan.

Whitmer’s economic development people are marketing Michigan as a place women can have an abortion, or where LGBTQ people can have full civil rights. That’s not a plan.

That may impact a sliver of the population, but the same appeal can be made to young professionals in a dozen other major cities and states.

Targeted ads playing up “reproductive freedom” or gay rights feels like laying political groundwork for a national political run.

On the other hand, this council charged with boosting our population used the words “reproductive health,” “abortion,” “gay,” and LGBTQ a combined zero times in its 86 pages.

Instead, it challenged state leaders to come up with a plan to target all “young talent.” It calls for an “economic growth plan.”

Who is putting those plans together? Someone who won’t be in the position she’s in four years from now? Legislators who are capped out on their tenure after 12 years, at the most?

By then, will Metro Detroit have a real transit system, not a sad little elevated train that loops three miles around downtown Detroit? Will Michigan have more housing stock? A brand-new education system? Allegedly.

Working on a vision you didn’t create isn’t how politicians operate. That’s why the odds of any of the council’s report baring fruit are infinitesimally small.

A future governor is more likely to create a new population growth council than use the words of Whitmer’s. At that point, her population growth council’s handiwork may come off the shelf ... as a reference.

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at


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