$25 – $300

2018 GRA Annual Conference - Hosted by Citizens Research Council of Michiga...

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Grand Valley State University Detroit Center

163 Madison Street

Detroit, MI 48226

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2018 Annual GRA Policy Conference
Detroit, MI at the Grand Valley State University Detroit Center

Hosted by:

Citizens Research Council of Michigan

Sessions will be held at the Grand Valley State University Detroit Center. Attendees are suggested to make hotel reservations at the Aloft Detroit, a 100+ year old office building that was recently converted into a hotel and apartments. Room rates are $199/night for single and double bed rooms. Reservations can be made through the personalized link (Citizens Research Council Block).

The GRA awards recognize exceptional research and educational efforts regarding state and local governmental issues performed by staff members of governmental research agencies. If you would like to submit an entry please view the 2018 GRA Awards Competition information. Deadline for submission is June 4, 2018


We learn quickly in Detroit that all things connect to Motown music. Here are the Motown hits that describe what we have planned for the conference. The sessions are listed in order of presentation. Exact times have yet to be determined.

Sunday, July 29

Roundtable and Reception

Monday, July 30

"First I Look at the Purse" (The Contours – 1965)
Did Bankruptcy Fix Detroit? – In 2013, Detroit became the largest city to go through Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. Was Detroit an anomaly or a harbinger of financial woes other municipalities will need to confront sometime soon? A panel of individuals from city government, media, and civic groups will explore the circumstances leading to Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy, the sustainability of the city post-bankruptcy, and other issues confronting the city.

"Things Are Changing" (The Supremes – 1965)
Detroit and Silicon Valley Are Changing the Future of Transportation – The future is right around the corner. No, we won’t have the Jetsons’ flying cars. But we will have self-driving cars, cars that talk to each other and the infrastructure around them, and intermodal connected systems that utilize the nascent sharing economy to move people and goods. A panel of state, regional, and private sector experts will describe what the future looks like and how it will affect the way we organize our cities, the tax streams we derive from our transportation systems, and the role of government in bringing about these changes.

"Reach Out I'll Be There" (Four Tops – 1966)
GRA’s Partnership with GASB – GASB Chairman Dave Vaudt will keynote our lunch with a talk that will explore ways in which GASB communicates with the general public and the organizations the data user communities, like GRA groups.

"Stop! In the Name of Love" (The Supremes – 1965)
Get the Lead Out – The Flint water crisis raised awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning, especially for children. We have since learned that many other cities have problems with lead in the water. But lead levels in water pale in comparison what might be ingested from other sources. A panel of experts will help us to understand the threat and consider policy solutions to address the problems.

"Down to Earth" (Billy Eckstine – 1965)
The Farm Around the Corner – Detroiters have turned a negative into a positive. In a city not capable of tearing down abandoned structures fast enough to keep up with the need, residents have found ways to put the emptied lots into productive uses as urban farms. We will visit two Detroit urban farms and talk to experts to understand how urban farming is changing urban land use across the nation.

Tuesday, July 31

"Money (That's What I Want)" (Barrett Strong – 1960)
Federal Tax Reform and Its Effects on State Tax Structures – Federal tax reform enacted in December 2017 had trickle-down effects, some intentional and others not, on state and local tax structures. The panel discussion will provide perspectives from a number of states including highlights of what has been done in individual states and what still needs to be addressed following the changes in Washington D.C.

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (Diana Ross – 1970)
What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into? – The elephant in the room for state and local governments across the nation is pensions and OPEB, the cost of which is crowding out spending on current services. A panel of national experts representing government, retirees, and reformers will update us on the status of pension and OPEB liabilities for the state and local governments.

Tuesday afternoon free

"Dancing in the Street" (Martha and the Vandellas – 1964)
GRA Banquet, Annual Meeting, and Awards Presentations – Join us at the world-renowned Detroit Institute of Arts for the Tuesday evening affair. The keynote address will be provided by David E. Osborne, author of “Reinventing America's Schools” and “The Price of Government: Getting the Results We Need in an Age of Permanent Fiscal Crisis.”

Wednesday, August 1

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine" (Marvin Gaye – 1968)
Communications Speed Dating – Various GRA groups/members will share their successes and pitfalls in data presentation, community surveys, podcasts, webinars, YouTube videos, and other innovations. If your organization has been doing any or all of these things, or something not mentioned, we’d love to hear from you as part of the discussion.

"Baby I Need Your Loving" (Four Tops – 1964)
Awards Winners – As is the custom, the conference will conclude with presentations by those recognized for Most Distinguished Research, Effective Citizen Education, and Policy Achievement.

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Grand Valley State University Detroit Center

163 Madison Street

Detroit, MI 48226

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