One Kents proposal needs to be on ballot

July 5, 2011
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The Business Journal wrote an editorial dated June 20th concerning efforts of the One Kent Coalition and the Study Group appointed by Sandi Frost Parrish, the head of the Kent County Commission, George Heartwell, the mayor of the City of Grand Rapids, and Nyal Deems from the One Kent Coalition. We feel there were a number of mistakes and labels in the editorial which we would like to clarify and correct.

The One Kent Coalition has been working on a proposal to merge the governments of the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County into one metropolitan government. To do that, will require enabling legislation to be passed by the Michigan Legislature and signed by the governor. The enabling legislation we propose will allow for combination of the city and county government only upon approval by the voters. We believe that an issue of this importance to the entire metro area should only be on a ballot when it will draw the highest proportion of citizens voting. That will be in a presidential election year, which is in November 2012. The surveys we have taken show that the citizens, by a vast majority, feel that the issue should be left up to them and not to local governmental officials.

We believe a consolidated metropolitan government will modernize local government in order to kick-start the economy, bring in good companies and good jobs and move the economic center of Michigan to Grand Rapids/Kent County. Michigan has lost more jobs and more tax revenues than almost any other state — we need to shrink local government to a size we can afford. A consolidation will not create big government. We already have big government. Consolidation is about removing barriers to modern government, allowing it to provide services in a leaner and more effective way. We need consolidation to streamline government to reduce wasteful spending and duplication.

We have studied four other cities that have created metropolitan governments that we think are comparable in size and structure: Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville and Jacksonville. Each has shown significant beneficial results in those areas mentioned above.

The study group which was referenced in the Business Journal opinion was created at the request of George Heartwell and Sandi Frost Parrish. One Kent assisted in forming the study group and agreed to participate in it. The three parties constructed a timeline and charge for the study group which asked the study group to provide their thoughts on how a consolidated government should be structured to best serve the citizens of the metropolitan area.

We do believe that the potential taxpayer savings, service improvements, and the economic development enhancement to the metropolitan area are clearly shown by the other consolidated metropolitan areas which we have studied. We are happy to provide anyone that is interested with the information we have gathered. We look forward to hearing input from all those that are interested in discussing this issue and how it may be best structured for the citizens of the metropolitan area.

Nyal D. Deems, One Kent Coalition

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