Tag Archives: eric scorsone

Thoughts on my second month as director

The focus on Flint in recent weeks and the need to address important nutrition, child development, public health and community infrastructure issues has given us the opportunity to remind folks that MSU Extension has been in Flint for 100 years. We will be there for the next 100 years, and can be an important part of developing and implementing solutions that change lives. Your colleagues are making a difference. Deanna East is helping to coordinate the Michigan State University response in Flint. Eric Scorsone and the recently announced MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy are engaging local officials and testifying before the State Legislature. Erin Powell, Cathy Newkirk and many others are addressing nutrition issues on the ground. Terry McLean and the Edible Flint crew are working closely with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and state officials to ensure that food is distributed in areas of greatest need. This is important work that underscores the breadth of our collective experience, the ability to respond quickly and the importance of partnerships that you have built over decades.

The critical role that MSU Extension is playing in Flint is replicated in every community throughout Michigan. But, seven weeks into my new job as part of your team, it is already clear that not enough people know who we are. Moreover, those who do know us well are not always familiar with the breadth and depth of MSU Extension programming. I met recently with an agricultural commodity CEO, for example, who indicated that labor force issues were among his biggest industry concerns. As we talked, it became clear that, although his interactions over many years had been primarily with our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (for obvious reasons), many programs in the Greening Michigan, Children and Youth, and Health and Nutrition Institutes would be potentially valuable resources to him in recruiting and retaining valued employees.

We often use a slide when describing “Who is MSU Extension?” that includes the following bullets:

  • Faculty and Academic Staff on Campus
  • Extension Educators and Senior Extension Educators
  • 4-H Program Coordinators
  • Program Instructors, Program Associates, Program Assistants
  • Support Staff Members, on and off campus; MSU or county employees
  • Funded by County, State and Federal Resources

While these statements are accurate and descriptive, what if, instead, we said things like:

  • Unparalleled statewide health education delivery system.
  • Business start-up, tech transfer and product development expertise.
  • Serve schools statewide; capable of gathering more than 2,000 kids and their families for a single event.
  • Rapid response for agriculture, human health and other emergencies, such as the current Flint water crisis.
  • Future funding growth to come from building partnerships!

You can help me in at least two important ways.

  1. Don’t hesitate to tell people about the great work you do, and add in a bit about what your colleagues do in many areas across the entire state. If you aren’t aware of all MSU Extension programs, the website is a good place to start.
  2. Help us to find even more creative ways to describe what we do and outlets for sharing that information with the world. What descriptive statements would you add to this list to describe “Who is MSU Extension?”

Consider browsing through our public value statements occasionally to refresh your memory about how all of your colleagues’ work makes a difference in Michigan. We work for an amazing organization. By working together we can ensure that more people understand how we can help positively change their lives, communities and businesses.

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Financial education, Flint Water, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Resources, Youth development

Moving our cities fiscally forward: Launch of the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy

Through my lifetime, I have seen the unfortunate decline of some of our great Michigan cities, and I feel very passionately that Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is a vehicle that can help them get back on track. MSU Extension has worked with local officials for decades through programs such as training new county commissioners and developing the first formal budgeting system for county governments.

This month, MSU launches a new resource for our state to improve the fiscal health of municipalities. The MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy will advise communities and distribute important research and fiscal-health indicators for all Michigan municipalities. The center will offer fiscal sustainability workshops, customized consultancy services, applied research on municipal governance and fiscal issues, and an annual fiscal health report on each of Michigan’s cities, counties and townships.

Dr. Eric Scorsone, an MSU economist who assisted Detroit and other struggling cities, will direct the center and will advise communities and distribute important research and fiscal-health indicators for all Michigan municipalities. In the past few years, Eric and colleagues have advised governments in Detroit, Flint, Lansing and elsewhere on short- and long-term fiscal issues. The team also worked with state officials and local municipalities to help the communities navigate and move beyond emergency management.

The center had two kickoff events – Jan. 12 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing and Jan. 14 at the Miller Canfield law firm in Detroit. While I was attending Issue Identification listening sessions across the Upper Peninsula, Patrick Cudney, our associate director, represented MSU Extension in my absence. He told me that the launch events for the MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy were incredible.

Patrick said, “The level of interest and involvement from government partners at both events was fairly astounding. We had local and state elected officials, attorneys, law firms, planning agencies and organizations attending with a deep level of respect for the work that MSU Extension has been doing for many years in that arena. It felt really gratifying and was one of those proud moments in my career to see Extension and the profile of Extension’s work raised in such a way.

“To have Eric Scorsone provide leadership for that initiative is perfect. Eric is such a well-respected researcher and yet he understands the application of the research to each individual situation that Michigan communities face. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each municipality has its own challenges. By having Eric in that role, it ensures that we will have our on-campus researchers and faculty, and off-campus academic staff embedded in Michigan’s communities. They can really assess what those needs are and identify the most appropriate resources to help work with those communities to really affect change.”

Here’s a link to an MSU press release about the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy if you’d like to learn more!

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Filed under Economic development, Financial education

Extension specialist and financial expert achieves rock star status

The recent news that Detroit would be filing for bankruptcy made headlines not only in Michigan but around the country. Gov. Rick Snyder approved a request from emergency manager Kevyn Orr to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. The city filed on July 18.

Kudos go out to Dr. Eric Scorsone, Michigan State University Extension specialist, for his diligence in working with the media to explain the Detroit bankruptcy issue. Within 24 hours of the bankruptcy being announced, Dr. Scorsone spoke to about 20 media outlets on four continents.

In the “It’s Just Politics” segment on Michigan Radio July 19, producer and co-host Zoe Clark called Dr. Scorsone the Mick Jagger of “muni” (municipal) finance. You can listen here.

Many national news agencies such as NBC sought Dr. Scorsone’s reaction to the bankruptcy. We’re grateful to Dr. Scorsone for his expertise and his willingness to step out and communicate to the public about these complicated financial issues. And he’s probably going to be doing this for a while, given the complexity of such a large municipal bankruptcy filing.

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Filed under Financial education

New Extension papers explore municipal bankruptcy

In this unsteady economy, the chances of a city undergoing bankruptcy increases. Never reaching that point would seem to be the ideal goal for any municipality. However, cities and other districts may need to resort to bankruptcy when other methods fail to lift them out of debt.

To better understand Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, Michigan State University Extension conducted a simulation exercise based on historical data from a U.S. city and recently put out a staff paper presenting the lessons learned from that exercise.

Find “Chapter 9 Bankruptcy: Simulation Exercise Staff Paper” and its companion white paper on the MSU Extension website at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/resources/municipal_bankrupty.

MSU Extension specialist and MSU Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) faculty member Dr. Eric Scorsone, MSU Extension specialist Nicolette Bateson, and MSU College of Law graduate student and graduate assistant in AFRE Amanda Wright wrote the staff paper. Amanda also authored the white paper.

Read more about the paper and municipal bankruptcy here.

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Filed under Financial education

Extension connects on ballot issues

In an article in last week’s Spotlight, I drew your attention to Bulletin GE 49, written by Michigan State University Extension specialist Claire Layman. The bulletin supplies non-partisan objective information allowing Michigan residents to make informed decisions on the six proposals appearing on the ballot Nov. 6.

Besides writing the bulletin, Claire was busy using technology to educate further about the proposals. With help from ANR Communications multimedia production team leader Steve Evans, Claire led two Adobe Connect sessions on campus with leading experts on the ballot issues. On Oct. 22, the group hosted fora, reaching out to four locations: Harrisville, Lawrence, Sault Ste. Marie and Wayne. On Oct. 24, the fora involved five locations: Clinton Township, Flint, Hastings, Houghton and Traverse City.

Attendees read over the bulletin and watched three pre-recorded video interviews with policy experts who covered both sides of the proposal issues. Afterward, they asked questions of the experts through Adobe Connect.

Experts included MSU Extension specialist and professor of economics Eric Scorsone, professor in the MSU School of Human Resources and Labor Relations Peter Berg, marketing economist in the MSU Product Center Bill Knudson and senior associate director of the Land Policy Institute Mark Wyckoff.

A total of 149 people participated in the fora with the most attending at Harrisville in Alcona County with 53 participants.

Extension educators hosting the forums included Darren Bagley, Ann Chastain, Terry Gibb, Ginger Hentz, Brad Neumann, Julie Pioch, Bethany Prykucki, Mike Schira, Bonnie Witchner-Zoia and Richard Wooten. Terry Gibb helped write Bulletin GE 49 and helped to organize the overall registration.

In addition, Extension specialist Georgia Peterson helped out by wrangling questions as they came in one evening from the four live sites. She quickly figured out the best method to do so within Adobe Connect.

Organizations that partnered with us in this endeavor included the League of Women Voters, the Lake Superior State University Political Science Club, the Northwest Council of Michigan Governments and the District 13 Extension Council. Partner organizations served to recruit and market the forums, and served as table facilitators at small group discussions.

Claire reports that all evaluations have not been tabulated yet but those that have come in so far have been generally very positive. In Alcona County, 82 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Because of tonight’s event, I am better informed to make decisions on Michigan’s proposals in the upcoming election.” One hundred percent of Alcona County respondents agreed or strongly agreed that events such as the fora are valuable for our democracy, and 79 percent of them agreed or strongly agreed that they’d like to be a part of similar events.

Associate professor Luke Reese has been instrumental in leading us in the use of Adobe Connect technology. He continues to offer monthly online workshops and is largely responsible for our organizational competency in Adobe Connect meetings and webinars.

Thanks to Claire for making innovative use of technology and to Luke and Steve for continuing to teach, lead and support us in technology efforts. And thanks to our Extension educators for hosting and our partners for their contribution to the events.

We have further signs that people look to us when they want to make informed decisions based on expert opinion. As of Oct. 31, we had more than 400 page views for the forum event listings and nearly 1,400 page views on Extension educator Terry Gibb’s article “November Ballot Issues Could Mean Changes for Michigan Residents.”

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Filed under Technology

Extension helps educate public about Detroit consent agreement

Helping the public and our stakeholders understand the issues that directly affect their quality of life is one of the pinnacles of MSUE. And one of the biggest and best recent examples of this is Extension’s work in educating the public about the recent Detroit consent agreement.

MSUE Public Policy and State Government Team members Eric Scorsone, James Ribbron, Terry Gibb, Nickie Bateson and Richard Wooten are working on a series of Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) bulletins that examine the complicated structure of the agreement, the functions and powers of many key players and context for key date, terms and issues.

The first two bulletins, an FAQ and a follow-up FAQ, were linked to and written about in MSU Extension News articles, a quick and easy way for Extension staffers to push out information to the public quickly and effectively. It is a great example of Extension taking a fast-evolving issue and mobilizing quickly to leverage the wealth of knowledge and experience its educators and specialists have on an important topic.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Training provided to newly elected county commissioners

As part of the I Know MI Numbers initiative, Michigan State University Extension educators, specialists and faculty are helping our cities and towns succeed. MSUE has been doing this kind of work for years. In fact, we have been providing training for newly elected county commissioners since 1968. The MSUE State and Local Government Area of Expertise Team (now known as the Public Policy Work Group) in the Greening Michigan Institute most recently continued the tradition by providing six workshops in Big Rapids, Grayling, Kalamazoo, Novi, Frankenmuth and Escanaba in November and December last year.

Why is it important that we train county commissioners?

From maintaining records of property ownership to issuing marriage licenses to collecting and distributing taxes to providing a functional and effective justice system, county government is responsible for handling a diverse array of functions for Michigan residents. Every two years, the citizens elect county commissioners to develop policy and provide financial oversight to all aspects of county government. The role of a county commissioner is well defined by statute; however, understanding the relationships between the county board and other elected officials and department heads is very complicated. We are training commissioners so that they understand their roles within the complex system of county government.

There are 687 county commissioners in the state. Two hundred twenty-seven commissioners attended the workshops, which highlighted key aspects of county government as well as the roles and responsibilities of county boards of commissioners.

Evaluations showed that the training improved commissioners’ understanding of county finance and the structure and function of county government, and that they are now more aware of resources available to them as commissioners. Commissioners who attended previous trainings stated that this most recent team and curriculum update was the best they had seen.

 The team spent several months updating the curriculum and used a variety of teaching methods to present the material including lectures, group work and polling the audience throughout the lessons with the Turning Point audience response system.

 Team members who worked on the program include John Amrhein, Nicole Bradshaw, Claire Layman, Julie Pioch and Mark Skidmore. Follow-up trainings on effective leadership and budget and finance also included Eric Scorsone and Howard Wetters.

 After more than 40 years, we continue to connect with county commissioners, and they continue to depend on us for training of new commissioners.

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Filed under Greening Michigan