Mayor responds to County of Kent announcement

June 25, 2011
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On Thursday, June 23, 2011, the Kent County Board of Commissioners voted to suspend the involvement of its members in the One Kent deliberations aimed at consolidating Kent County and the City of Grand Rapids. While I would prefer that Kent County remain an active partner in these deliberations I understand — and share — their concern over the process.

County Board Chair Sandi Frost Parrish and I, together with One Kent representatives, appointed a Consolidation Study Commission to explore all facets of City/County consolidation including, but not limited to, a review of the One Kent proposal. One Kent has it within its power to submit legislation for consideration by the State Legislature and Governor, with or without the consent of the County Board of Commissioners or Grand Rapids City Commission. This extraordinary power makes it all the more important that One Kent honor a thorough, comprehensive citizen engagement process to ensure that the bill ultimately submitted is the best one for our communities.

Yet, One Kent proposes to submit legislation for consideration after Labor Day, barely three months following the formation of the Consolidation Study Commission. This is entirely too rushed. From the first announcement of their proposal by One Kent members, I have privately implored them to proceed thoughtfully with full citizen involvement. I now publicly request that they afford the Study Commission the necessary time to fully explore City/County consolidation and engage our citizens — countywide — in the important discussions that will lead to a better bill for state consideration and a local ballot question that best reflects the will of the people.

It is my hope that, with One Kent’s commitment to a comprehensive process and without the pressure of a precipitous action to submit a potentially-flawed bill to the legislature, Kent County might be willing to return to the table to engage in this important dialogue.

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