Policy – Daily Detroit http://www.dailydetroit.com What To Know And Where To Go In Metro Detroit Thu, 23 Nov 2017 22:10:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 The Pizza And Prizes Michigan Schools Use To Lure Students On Count Day Are ‘Unfortunate.’ But Is There A Better Way? http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/10/08/pizza-prizes-michigan-schools-use-lure-students-count-day-unfortunate-better-way/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/10/08/pizza-prizes-michigan-schools-use-lure-students-count-day-unfortunate-better-way/#respond Sun, 08 Oct 2017 15:56:47 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38808 Schools across the state brought out donuts, dinosaurs, smoothies and all manor of special events on Wednesday to lure as many students to school as humanly possible.

It’s all part of a school funding system in Michigan that determines how much money schools receive from the state based on the number of students in class on “Count Day.”

“It’s not the best way to count students,” state Superintendent Brian Whiston told Chalkbeat. “But I just don’t know of a better way of doing it.”

Michigan is one of nine states that tie per-student funding to attendance on two or more school days, often one day in the fall and another in the spring. (In Michigan, fall count day determines 90 percent of per-pupil funding, while the spring day accounts for the other 10 percent.) Another 10 states use a single count day, while others use average attendance or other methods.

“It’s unfortunate,” Whiston said, that schools put so many resources into “pizza parties, fairs, festivals, anything to get kids excited about coming to school.” But other counting methods like using average attendance would also be problematic, he said, because schools with low average attendance still need enough money to meet the needs of all enrolled students.

“That doesn’t really work because if the student is there, we have to have a teacher,” Whiston said. “If they miss so many days, we still have to have the teacher.”

Michigan began relying on Count Day when it changed to a per-pupil funding system more than 20 years ago. But the day has become more crucial in recent years as the state’s shrinking school-age population has forced districts to aggressively compete for students, said Craig Thiel, research director at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

“Over the past 10-12 years, as the public school pie has decreased in size, the smaller pie has been sliced in many more pieces. Districts compete vigorously for their slice of the pie,” Thiel said.

In Detroit, schools partnered with businesses, artists and other groups to encourage students to show up and be counted.

Students at Sampson Webber Academy partnered with artist Alex Cook and Beyond Basics, a non-profit literacy organization, to paint a mural.

At Coleman A. Young Elementary School, UAW-Ford donated 50,000 ID kits to all district students for Count Day. (The brother of this school’s principal is with the UAW.) Each kit contains two inkless fingerprint cards, two DNA collection swabs and two activator cards. After collecting the samples and completing the activator card with the child’s information, parents can store the kit for safe keeping. If needed, it can be delivered to authorities to help track the missing child.

A dinosaur visited Michigan Math and Science Academy in Warren:

Detroit’s main district put together a countdown video to make sure kids understood the importance of the day.

Editor’s Note: Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools. Daily Detroit syndicates their content with permission. You can learn more about the writers of Chalkbeat through an interview with them on our Daily Detroit Happy Hour podcast.

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HAP Leaving Health Insurance Marketplace, More Than 9,000 People Affected http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/15/hap-leaving-health-insurance-marketplace-9000-people-affected/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/15/hap-leaving-health-insurance-marketplace-9000-people-affected/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:14:47 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38401 The gridlock in Washington D.C. around the topic of healthcare is having real world implications.

Detroit-based Health Alliance Plan announced today that they’re withdrawing from the Health Insurance Marketplace, often referred to as Obamacare.

Specifically called out was the uncertainty the federal government will continue offering subsidies to fund reduced prices for those who currently qualify.

The decision to reduce HAP’s 2018 individual plan offerings was based on a variety of factors, including the many uncertainties related to premium stabilization programs, enforcement of the individual mandate and not knowing whether the federal government will continue to fund cost-sharing reductions (CSRs).

According to the company, individual members will have the option to purchase off-exchange plans directly from HAP.

9,100 Health Alliance Plan members, or about 1.4 percent of HAP’s current membership of 650,000, will be impacted.

“Market volatility and uncertainties have made it difficult for insurers to effectively plan for and provide affordable individual health plans,” said Terri Kline, HAP president and CEO. “We believe our decision is in the best interest of all of our members. As a nonprofit health plan with the mission of enhancing the health and well-being of the lives we touch, we need to be responsible with our members’ health care dollars. We owe it to them to offer products that are sustainable and that create value for them.”

These changes do not affect those who have employer-based (small and large group) insurance or those who are enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, or self-funded plans.

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City Of Detroit’s Poverty Rate Is Lowest Since 2008, Household Income Up http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/14/city-detroits-poverty-rate-lowest-since-2008-household-income/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/14/city-detroits-poverty-rate-lowest-since-2008-household-income/#respond Fri, 15 Sep 2017 01:37:46 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38392 Here’s a piece of good news. There has been some progress on the poverty front in Detroit.

According to new U.S. Census data, the percentage of Detroiters living in poverty dropped by 4.1 percentage points from June 2015 to June 2016. The threshold for poverty for a family of four nationally is $24,563.

The poverty rate in Detroit fell from 39.8% in 2015 to 35.7% in 2016. The national poverty rate was 14% last year. In 2008, the percentage in poverty was 33.3%.

More progress with children: Poverty among children 18 years old and younger dropped 7% from the previous year.

Household income rising, outpacing nation: Detroit’s average household income rose $1,900, or 7.5%, from 2015 to 2016. The increase here was more than double that of the national median income (3.2%), and outpaced the state by four times.

Why this matters: Everyone agrees there’s a lot more work to do, but this is important progress in what is still a very poor city. It’ll be interesting to see if this continues over multiple years.

“This is a significant step forward, but just a first step. It appears our efforts toward attracting major job providers and training Detroiters for the growing number of available jobs are beginning to pay off.” – Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan

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Michigan Cracking Down On Marijuana Dispensaries, All Must Close By Dec. 15 http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/12/michigan-cracking-marijuana-dispensaries-must-close-dec-15/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/12/michigan-cracking-marijuana-dispensaries-must-close-dec-15/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 20:34:13 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38311 It’s going to be a lot harder to get ahold of medical marijuana in Michigan soon.

According to multiple reports, the state of Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is giving medical marijuana dispensaries and other businesses until December 15 to shut down.

If they don’t, they risk not being able to get a license under a new regulatory system they’re rolling out or be forcibly shut down by law enforcement. Some areas, like Oakland County, are already doing shutdowns.

New applications will not be accepted until December 15, so the practical result is that there will be a period where medical marijuana will be basically unavailable in the state.

Probable outcome: There most likely will be a lot fewer dispensaries in the state after a re-licensure process that has strong political overtones.

But… Didn’t we pass a ballot initiative, overwhelmingly?: Yeah, and elected officials don’t even have to act like they care.

If you look at polls and by the margin the 2008 ballot proposal passed (63%-37%), Michiganders wanted medical marijuana access. Recreational legalization is now favored by 57% of Michiganders in the last public poll from this year we found.

Let’s zoom out beyond the marijuana issue to explain (and, admittedly, go down a rathole).

Members of this board are selected, in part, by the Speaker of the State House and the Senate Majority Leader (also, the governor).

Through gerrymandering, in the legislature, local election outcomes are assured after the primary. Gerrymandering is a process that happens every 10 years where legislative districts are redrawn by the party in power.

Technology and politics have merged in various ways, and this is just one. Political leaders have carved out individual blocks and stack the deck so hard that the state House or Senate district is almost unflippable. On a state level Michigan voters have been stealthily silenced.

The lines of districts have been drawn to be ever in the controlling party’s favor (Republicans).

The officials on these boards are selected by elected officials, and since the current controlling party in the legislature has zero fear of being voted out of office, no matter how unpopular the program is, they’re going to do what they want.

It begs the question — and this is regardless of the party in power — if an elected leader has no real fear of being removed except by his own party, is it still a democracy?

In Michigan state politics, that’s a real question.

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Amazon Should Be A Wake-up Call To Metro Detroit To Think Bigger http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/08/amazon-wake-call-metro-detroit-think-bigger/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/09/08/amazon-wake-call-metro-detroit-think-bigger/#respond Fri, 08 Sep 2017 19:31:02 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=38247 All the Mayor’s horses and all of Dan Gilbert’s men are looking to put together a deal together with Amazon.

After all, the prospect of 50,000 jobs — with well-paying salaries — and a $5 billion total investment has the entire nation talking about where the online retail Goliath will build its second headquarters.

Beyond the breathless headlines that will get shared ad nauseum on Facebook, we should take this as an opportunity to look at our region in the mirror and ask ourselves how we could compete with the rest of the nation — for talent, for investment, and for the good of our own residents.

Detroit has some great advantages. We have a sleek, modern airport. It seems like everywhere is close to an interstate freeway, and we have plenty of properties that could, in theory — and if rehabbed — house this project. Think the old Packard Plant or the Fisher Body factory, each with more than 3 million square feet. We’ve also got vacant real estate in spades.

Taking over an iconic property in an historic American city like ours would represent the kind of strong statement that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos lives for. Remember, this is the guy who’s invested heavily in The Washington Post — a newspaper, for cryin’ out loud. A guy who wants to one day deliver your purchases via drone. Going someplace obvious like Silicon Valley or New York feels way too pedestrian to be a real possibility.

Even pundits like Richard Florida are saying that Detroit’s a sleeper pick.

But there are some major areas where we come up short. We’re no closer than we were a couple years ago to having a real mass transit system. That’s a big one: One of the top requirements for the RFP was access to subways and/or light rail. Diversity was also mentioned; we’re among the least diverse regions in the nation.

This chart from CNBC puts Detroit almost dead last among cities that could contend. The only category out of the four they measured we even place in the top 20? Our airport access. Though truth be told, the fact they gave no consideration to real estate seems like a glaring omission; think it’d be easy to squeeze 8 million square feet out of New York City?

The chart makes it clear: Our region doesn’t rank in the top 20 in North America for job growth, labor force education, mass transit or university culture.

While the media can’t write enough about Detroit’s comeback — and there has been some important progress — the reality is we need to think bigger instead of focusing on scraps around the edges if more Detroiters are to find work and new opportunities.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for Amazon, especially if it’s the right deal. But we shouldn’t follow Wisconsin’s example in landing Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn by giving away the farm in tax and other incentives.

We need to look at this as an opportunity to think bigger than we ever have before. We’re very good at using tax incentives and other lures to pull companies or major-league sports franchises from the suburbs to the city or vice versa.

But what we should be focusing on is overall growth.

There’s amazing, untapped potential in Detroiters on either side of 8 Mile to help us become the engine of the Midwestern economy, but our divisive culture and some of our leadership locks that potential in place with provincialism, short-term thinking and policies that fall laughably short of what leaders are doing in other, more economically robust regions.

The reality is if Detroit lands Amazon, or any company that isn’t simply transplanting itself from one Detroit-area location to another, most of the jobs even with programs to get Detroit residents skilled up will probably fall to suburbanites who will take that money back to their comparatively affluent tax bases across 8 Mile.

This could be a watershed moment in our region’s history.

We will either begin a true, inclusive rebound, or we’ll look back in 10 years and realize that we have faded into irrelevance, having missed what could be our greatest chance to regain our former glory as the creator of the middle class and opportunity for all.

Let’s use Amazon — whether or not we get it — as a rallying point, and move together as a region into the future.

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Mike Duggan Speaks Truth To Power About Detroit’s Divided History http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/31/mike-duggan-speaks-truth-power-detroits-divided-history/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/31/mike-duggan-speaks-truth-power-detroits-divided-history/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 21:49:44 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=36367 Finally.

Across Metro Detroit, we usually do a terrible job of acknowledging our past and how those decisions impact our region today.

But in an energetic speech in a venue where a message about race is uncomfortable for some, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan talked about the systematically racist policies that shaped our region today and finished with a standing ovation.

The TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) version is thanks to a practice called redlining if you were white after World War II, you could get home loans to buy or improve your home. But if you were a person of color, well, nope. The Federal government subsidized and bankrolled the suburbs while denying the same opportunity to African Americans, Hispanics, and other people of color.

We dived into the physical manifestation of it here on our site last year, a wall by 8 Mile. 

It’s an uncomfortable truth about our past. We need to acknowledge it to push forward as a region. There are reasons why things happened the way they did, and they’re not pretty.

Historically, development hasn’t been a level playing field and it’s completely justified for people to question and push for inclusion.

But Duggan putting that story out there has a power that other sources simply do not.

He then looked to the future, talking about eight policies for development:

There have been examples of success in the past – such as River Crest – that he called out in his speech, as well as efforts in the Fitzgerald neighborhood.

Duggan has outlined a tall order to execute, and there are a lot of potential pitfalls. But who would have thought a few years ago the city budget would have a surplus, and home sale prices would be up by more than 50 percent in more than half of the city?

It’s refreshing to be talking about what the right pace of improvement is instead of whether or not it will ever happen. That in itself is an accomplishment.

Check out the video below.

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The Mackinac Policy Conference: Benefits, Bourbon, And B.S. http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/30/mackinac-policy-conference-benefits-bourbon-b-s/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/30/mackinac-policy-conference-benefits-bourbon-b-s/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 21:45:18 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=36327 As I’m now starting my fourth year on the island attending the Mackinac Policy Conference, I can tell you that most of the rumors you may have heard about this event are true.

1,700 or so leaders in various parts of metro Detroit’s business, political and nonprofit establishment have completed their annual migratory trip to the Grand Hotel, with the conference agenda officially starting tomorrow.

And without fail, the same annual criticisms are leveled by some, especially on the left, that it’s out of touch. Meanwhile, their fundraising arms simultaneously inundate attendees email boxes with pitches for pricey fundraisers.

There’s a mirror story, usually on the right of the political spectrum, where some espouse the virtues of the event as if this were a religious pilgrimage, all the while secretly wishing they could toss their admission badge into the lake and melt into a bar somewhere for a bit of non-business fun.

See, humans are complex. And usually, the things humans create are complex as well. They don’t fit well in a tweet. And so it is with this 37th iteration of this conference.

The Benefits:

You’re not going to get more movers and shakers in a small area than here. If you’re looking to advance a cause, throwing on a sport coat, hopping on a carriage and getting up to the Grand is your best bet to actually talk to decision-making people without navigating a maze of gatekeepers.

The topics here are fascinating to a policy nerd, and this is one of the few forums that the resources are actually invested in getting top-notch speakers and having some sort of dialog on issues we face.

A mentor of mine, Marge Sorge, taught me that many times the most important stories are the boring ones. She’s always been right, and it plays out here. There will be a lot of conversations that a reader who is used to the sports-like nature of most political coverage will find slow. But that’s the stuff that will impact us 10 or 25 years from now.

The Bourbon:

A side benefit of shoving everyone on a small rock in the middle of a lake isn’t necessarily the flow of bourbon (though, I do love a good Bulleit or Four Roses on the rocks) but the networking that happens and the connections made over said Bourbon.

That’s important. In this time of political division, the ability to come together over any issue – for any reason – is rare. We’re looking forward to getting a bunch of interviews, some that in years past turned out to be fabulously candid that just wouldn’t happen in Detroit.

The B.S.

“The magician and the politician have much in common: They both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing.” – Ben Okri

The B.S. (or, since there are only horses as transportation on this island, the H.S.) is going to be turned to 11 as people are gearing up for election season.

Here’s one example, but don’t take the skepticism I have for this example to mean that the other party isn’t shoveling the remnants out the back of the same horse.

It doesn’t seem that a part-time legislature would improve the lives of Michiganders much, but of course, the idea is expected to be put up there by a man who wants to take “Lieutenant” out of his “Lieutenant Governor” title, Brian Calley.

Term limits has been mostly a disaster. The reality is all the practical policy experience lays with the lobbyists and special interests (and so do the power cards) as everyone in office is facing a hard limit with how long they can do their job. Michigan has a legislature full of people looking toward their next career move.

Making a part-time legislature will probably make this worse. There are already a ton of real issues the full time legislature can’t seem to get to. And maybe this is a distraction move to attempt to slow calls for the end of gerrymandering, where districts are drawn in crazy shapes to benefit the party in power.

Although the idea of smaller government is laudable, in the modern world in a state this large the people probably need full time representatives as some sort of balance to special interests that, as it says on the label, are wholly interested in their special cause.

There is going to be a lot of good that happens up here. And there also will be a lot that seems crazy or out of touch.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next few days bring, and we’re looking forward to serving it to you straight.

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PODCAST: The State of Biking and Greenways in Detroit with Todd Scott http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/30/podcast-state-biking-greenways-detroit-todd-scott/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/30/podcast-state-biking-greenways-detroit-todd-scott/#respond Tue, 30 May 2017 15:18:36 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=36324 Detroit is in many ways becoming more and more of a biking city, along with other modes of transportation than just cars.

Todd Scott, Executive Director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition, joins our host Sven Gustafson at the legendary Locker Room Lounge on Livernois to talk all things biking. We touch on the popularity of the Dequindre Cut. The addition of protected bike lanes down Cass Avenue. Discuss plans for biking on the new Gordie Howe bridge. The potential impact of the new MoGo bike share. The Elmwood Cemetery connector – and a ton of other bike related topics.

If you like the show, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast for free in iTunes and get every episode as they come out. 

Here’s our RSS feed in case you don’t use iTunes.

If you’re looking for more episodes of the podcast, here they are on our website.

Thanks to the Locker Room Lounge for their hospitality and our podcast network Podcast Detroit for their continued support.

For more on the Detroit Greenways Coalition and their efforts to make Detroit a World Class City for Biking and Walking: http://detroitgreenways.org/

Special note: This week we’re going to be up at the Mackinac Policy Conference. Be sure to follow http://www.dailydetroit.com for all the action.

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How Long Will You Live? Research Shows Sizable Inequality In Michigan And Metro Detroit http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/14/long-will-live-research-shows-sizable-inequality-michigan-metro-detroit/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/14/long-will-live-research-shows-sizable-inequality-michigan-metro-detroit/#respond Sun, 14 May 2017 21:46:41 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=35993 Average life expectancy at birth varies in Michigan by nearly eight years.

That’s one of many results from a recent study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, Seattle published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, where the authors calculated life expectancy by county from 1980 to 2014.

It showed disparities in life expectancy are growing across the nation.

“Looking at life expectancy on a national level masks the massive differences that exist at the local level, especially in a country as diverse as the United States,” said lead author Laura Dwyer-Lindgren, a researcher at IHME. “Risk factors like obesity, lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and smoking explain a large portion of the variation in lifespans, but so do socioeconomic factors like race, education, and income.”

Michigan’s average life expectancy at birth is 78.26 years old, and across the United States, it’s 79.08.

Leelanau County (home to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and just outside of Traverse City) takes home the statewide longest average life expectancy at 83.1 years.

Ottawa County is second in Michigan at 81.45 years, and Washtenaw County (home of Ann Arbor) was third at 81.09.

Keweenaw County jumped the most percentage-wise for life expectancy at 10.28 percent to 80.2 years, compared to the Michigan state average rise of 6.65 percent.

Here’s how the six-county Metro Detroit region (a definition determined by the U.S. Census as the Detroit-Warren-Livonia Metropolitan area) breaks out in 2014:

  • Livingston County: 80.2 Years
  • Oakland County: 79.98
  • Lapeer County: 78.64
  • Macomb County: 78.44
  • St. Clair County: 77.75
  • Wayne County: 75.33

Wayne County, home to Detroit, has the shortest life expectancy in the state. This was also the case back in 1980, at 70.64 years.

Wayne is home to highest in the state mortality rates for those aged 5-25 (1.14 percent dying in those years vs. a state average of .76 precent) and 4.52 percent for those aged 25-45 vs. a state average of 2.79 percent.

In second-to-worst spot for life expectancy was Genesee County, home of Flint, at 76.06 years.

The lowest in the United States was Oglala Lakota County, South Dakota. It includes the Pine Ridge Native American reservation, at just 66.8 years. The highest? Summit County, Colorado. It tops the list at 86.8 years.

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Detroit’s QLINE Streetcar Could Go Much Faster. Here’s What Needs To Happen http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/05/detroits-qline-streetcar-go-much-faster-heres-needs-happen/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2017/05/05/detroits-qline-streetcar-go-much-faster-heres-needs-happen/#respond Fri, 05 May 2017 17:43:27 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=35836 One of the most anticipated – and debated – additions to Detroit’s streets is that of the QLINE. That’s the 3.3 mile long streetcar that begins service down Woodward Avenue on May 12.

One of the early complaints about the QLINE online is the speed of the streetcar. End to end, it takes about 25 minutes (as timed by our riding it today).

Here’s the thing. It could go much faster, if there were more governmental cooperation. It turns out the speed of the streetcar isn’t as much limited by mechanics.

It could go double the speed it does now safely on the tracks and systems in place.

From on board the QLINE today.

In order to make higher speed a reality, something called “signal priority” would have to happen up and down the route. It’s used in quite a few cities around the world.

That means the traffic lights and signals sync up, generally based on a kind of proximity sensor, with travel of the streetcar as it goes down the route to lessen the number of in-traffic stops.

Currently, on some intersections, the QLINE will get a 15 second head start thanks to special traffic lights that let the streetcar goes first. But more could be done, according to Dan Lijana, Communications Officer for M1-Rail.

Inside the QLINE streetcar today.

What it would take is government cooperation, as Woodward’s signals are control partly by the Michigan Department of Transportation, and partly by the city of Detroit.

“It would take a lot of coordination, because if you change the signals going north/south, you’re changing them going east and west,” said Lijana. “Multiple entities including MDOT, the City, DDOT, to work with along with the QLINE to make something like that happen.”

But it could happen and it has been discussed.

“All of the entities being together under Regional Transit would certainly speed the progress toward not just signal pre-emption, but universal fare card. A universal app to ride all the different systems,” said Lijana. “It’s a little a difficult to do it without that authority, but we continue to work toward that.”

The last Regional Transit System proposed was defeated at the ballot box in 2016, mostly due to Macomb County’s overwhelming opposition.

Another thing that’s interesting about the QLINE is contrary to other reports, the system has been built to expand.

“The tracks are set up so we could accommodate a larger system – people were thinking ahead,” said Lijana on the media tour.

It’s going to be interesting to follow this and see just how far ahead we actually go in the next few years.

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