Thursday, May 31, 2007

Exploration: Euler Lake (It's Not Mackinac Island BUT It's Intention Is)

Detroit Free Press

Mackinac conference can make a difference if leaders stick to goals

Mackinac Island lives in the past. The Detroit area cannot afford to any longer.

So the historic island between Michigan's peninsulas seems all the odder a setting this year for the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference. But maybe, as they share horse-drawn taxis and watch fudge being made by hand, the 1,700 attendees from business, politics, education and labor can find a shared path to the future.

While the Mackinac meeting is not known for accomplishing much, the gathering that begins today will focus on something that started on Mackinac a year ago. One D: Transforming Regional Detroit is a unified effort of the chamber, New Detroit, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Detroit Renaissance, the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan to assure that the area works together to achieve measurable goals in six key areas. Those are: economic prosperity, educational preparedness, regional transit, race relations, regional cooperation and quality of life.

The effort is unprecedented, but then just about every region-wide undertaking in recent history has been, too, with little to show for it. Hence the emphasis of One D on measurable goals. All conference participants ought to be leaving Mackinac with a clear idea of what One D is all about and a job to do in one of the six areas.

United Way has been conducting a series of e-mail surveys on those issues and, while not drawing a scientific sample, did ask about 1,000 people about their satisfaction with the quality of life in southeast Michigan. Not surprisingly, nearly 80% said they were unhappy with public transportation and more than 60% did not like the way suburban growth and development have been managed. Both are regional issues, best tackled on a region-wide basis, and both are historically divisive.

And if going up to Mackinac Island is what it takes to lay that history to rest and start planning a better future, this conference could be well worth the trip.

Copyright © 2007 Detroit Free Press Inc.

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