Plainfield asks for clarity from One Kent Coalition

Where is evidence local government has failed? 

by BETH ALTENA

The Plainfield Township Board joined nearly every other township in Kent County in approving a resolution asking backers of the One Kent Coalition to clarify the details of the plan.

Only Clerk Scott Harvey voted against the resolution. “I believe it needs to be put before the voters,” he said. “When you talk about the prosperity of Grand Rapids and look at the names of things in the town, you have to believe their hearts are in the right place.”

The resolution regarding the plan to establish a metropolitan government in Kent County and Grand Rapids is a two-page document. It spells out that the township is aware of the coalition’s goal of changing state law to create a metropolitan government, which would consist of a 25-person metropolitan commission with a full-time chief executive with broad powers, including the power to veto ordinances. It states that the Board is not aware of any “reports, studies or other objective evidence suggesting the need for such a radical transformation of government in the County, nor whether, if undertaken, it would result in any continuing benefits for the people of the City and the County.”

It states the Board recognizes “Kent County, Grand Rapids and the townships in the County have separate powers, and functions, long established by law, that do not overlap and that enable these municipal bodies to provide services efficiently to their respective constituents… The members of the Township Board desire to adopt this resolution to express their serious concern about this proposal and to suggest the need for sufficient consideration as to whether there are such shortcomings on the part of Kent County and Grand Rapids local government as would justify establishing an entirely new kind of local government never before attempted in Michigan.”

The resolution goes on to state strong support of local government and services as close to the people, responsive to their needs and respectful of the cost of government. It asserts that local government has flexibility in how services are provided to constituents and states that local government and Kent County already share public services by agreement through cooperative authorities and “continue to develop innovative ways to providing public services at reasonable cost per resident.”

“In our view, One Kent has thus far failed to address the fundamental issue that should be thoroughly explored before all others: What is the evidence that Kent County and Grand Rapids have so failed in their respective mission that the County Board of Commissioners, the City Commissioners and all County and City boards, agencies and commissions should be replaced forever with an entirely new government for both the County and the City?” the resolution reads. “What specific economics or efficiencies could One Kent identify as results that would be achieved by this proposal?”

Finally, “We call upon One Kent to step back from the introduction of their far-reaching legislation, and seek the views and greater participation of County residents and their elected representatives on these important and fundamental issues. We hope that One Kent will see the wisdom of this approach.”

Board member Vic Matthews said he agrees on seeking greater views on the fundamental issues of the One Kent proposal, as well as the advantages of and disadvantages of cooperation. He stressed the resolution was asking not to dismiss the One Kent idea, but asking for greater transparency and participation.

Harvey said he felt voting for the resolution would be sending the wrong message and following in the footsteps of the Kent County Road Commission, which he said is clearly objecting to the One Kent efforts. “The headline will be we are saying, ‘Stop the process,’” he said. He also noted that legislation on One Kent is already in Lansing.

Township Supervisor George Meek countered Harvey’s comments. “We are trying to get the message across that they need to slow down,” he said.

Harvey replied, “We should be encouraging them to establish a good program.”

“We are telling them, ‘Don’t try to ramrod this through,’” said Meek. “When has big government done something for the people without screwing it up? We live with that on a daily basis.”

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