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MichMash: The time of year when many public officials highlight achievements and goals

As part of the weekly series MichMash… Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher talk about what local leaders and residents actually get out of all of the speechifying.

Jake Neher: This is MichMash, a weekly conversation where we unjumble an important, and sometimes under-the-radar statewide issue that affects you. I’m Jake Neher.

Cheyna Roth: And I’m Cheyna Roth. It’s that time of year, Jake…

Jake Neher: You mean, all four seasons in two days in Michigan time of year?

Cheyna Roth: That too! But I’m thinking of “State of the BLANK” season… Although the big one here in Michigan… the governor’s State of the State speech happened back in January, you might be seeing LOCAL officials near you giving their own speeches highlighting their accomplishments and things they’re excited about in the near future.

Jake Neher: For example… within the past week, we saw Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan give his State of the City speech.

Mike Duggan, Mayor of Detroit: “This is going to be a night where we’re going to talk about where we’ve been and where we’re going.”

Jake Neher: Other speeches coming up very soon will include the State of Oakland County speech from County Executive Dave Coulter. Other county leaders will give their speeches soon. We’ve even seen things like University presidents giving “State of the University” speeches around this time of year. And that has us thinking… what’s the point of all of these speeches? Why does every leader of everything feel the need to do them?

Cheyna Roth: There’s surprisingly a lot to dig into here. Folks we’ve spoken to admit that there is an over-saturation of these speeches. But they say that oversaturation is – at least in part – a reflection of our current media environment. Newsrooms are stretched thin. And that means it’s a lot harder for public officials to get attention for the things they’re working on. This is a way to get reporters in a room and talk about your accomplishments and goals and have a chance at getting some coverage of those things.

Jake Neher: But I think the most important question here for you the listener is… WHY should I tune in? There’s a decent chance you either watch, listen, or read about the big speeches like the State of the Union Address. There’s probably a slightly smaller chance that you watch the governor’s State of the State. But when we get into these much less-publicized speeches like state of the county or state of the city… What would you as a resident get out of it?

Cheyna Roth: This is a question that… I promise you… we here at MichMash have asked ourselves! So when we say there ARE some good reasons to pay attention… you can trust that we’ve given it some thought. First of all… local politics and policy matter. In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that they matter to you individually more than what’s happening with the president or the governor. The issues they’re likely to be talking about in these speeches are more likely to affect you directly where you live or work.

Jake Neher: The other thing about them is that they give you a really good sense of what your local public officials think are the right ways to spend their time, money, and other resources. Because those are also YOUR resources. You’re going to get the rosiest view of their records and accomplishment…so take it all with a grain of salt. But watch, listen, or read about these speeches with this question in mind… do these officials care about the things that I care about?

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