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One Kent Proposal reviewed and discussed at GR City Commission meeting

September 27, 2011

This morning the Grand Rapids City Commission addressed ongoing concerns around the One Kent Coalition proposal to create a new regional government body.

The One Kent Coalition is moving forward in their pursuit to get the proposed legislation introduced in the State House before the New Year, but Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell wishes they would change course. “I want to use this public forum today to urge the One Kent group to step back and work with local governments, instead of moving forward with the State legislation.”

Other City Commissioners expressed concerns as well. Second Ward City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said she is not convinced that the proposed legislation would be good for the community, “it’s too partisan and it gives to much power to the Executive Officer.” Bliss is referring leadership position in the proposed One Kent legislation, where the new metropolitan government would be run by a CEO. Ruth Kelly echoed these comments by saying it is important to have as much transparency as possible and to avoid a government structure that would great more polarization with partisan influence.

In addition to the commission’s comments, there was a presentation by City staff and two lawyers who agreed to review the One Kent proposal. A 12 – page memorandum was submited that outlines 58 different aspect of the One Kent proposal that the review committee raised questions about. Some of these questions dealt with the executive power that the metropolitan leader would have, the lack of clarity on collective bargaining agreements for government employees, the districting process, the new government’s relationship to the existing city charter, the large number of political appointments and how this proposal would be voted on.

The observations in the review that were presented are both important and relevant for the City to move forward on how they deal with issues of possible consolidation. In addition, the review of the proposed legislation again makes clear that there are numerous undemocratic aspects of the One Kent proposal, which should need to be exposed and debated before any legislation can be adopted.

One side note worth reporting is that the City Commission adopted a resolution to fund a study with Grand Rapids, Kentwood and Wyoming on the possibility of consolidation of police and fire services between these three local governments. The total cost of the study is $265,000, with the City of Grand Rapids contributing $69,000.

More importantly, there are three private entities contributing significantly to the study of local government services consolidation – the Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation ($50,000), the Grand Rapids Community Foundation ($50,000) and the Frey Foundation ($27,000). This should raise flags for anyone paying attention, since both the DeVos and Frey families are members of the One Kent Coalition. The funding that both of these foundations provide should raise the question, is there are conflict of interest with funds coming from families that have a vested interest in seeing local government consolidation happen?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. winterinthehinterland permalink
    September 27, 2011 4:18 pm

    Consolidation efforts are currently underway in the City of Saugatuck, Douglas and Saugatuck Township and are being heavily funded by similar private interests that would stand to benefit from the proposal.

  2. kswheeler permalink
    September 27, 2011 4:43 pm

    The One Kent proposal is like giving this area a permanent Emergency Financial Manager with too much power shifted from voters to a one-person “CEO.”

    As I understand the draft proposal, there are provisions to essentially ram this down the throats of communities that oppose it….Also:

    It will shift all roadwork to privatized contracts…

    essentially overturns the voters’ choices of sheriffs, treasurers, clerks, and the prosecuting attorney of municipalities by eliminating their positions…

    seize titles to all city and comunity assets and hand that property control to the CEO

    enact ordinances and levy taxes without voter input….

    hire a “staff of consultants” i.e. more privatization, without voter input…

    This sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Apparently the DeVos and Frey families are counting on the idea that if it walks and quacks like an EFM but people are assured it’s not an EFM position, everyone will just settle down and accept life under permanent dictatorship. Haven’t we given up enough of our rights under Snyder already?

  3. kswheeler permalink
    September 27, 2011 4:44 pm

    Forgot to say: Jeff, thanks for keeping us current about this.

  4. winterinthehinterland permalink
    September 27, 2011 4:50 pm

    Yes, well if the Business Property Tax cuts go through as planned, that will essentially put the entire state into receivership, the pretext for an EFM. Either way, DeVos, the Mackinac Center and ALEC will have total control.

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