Category Archives: Government

Vicksburg discusses alcohol on public properties

Outdoor seating at downtown Vicksburg’s Village Hide-A-Way.

By Rob Peterson

New state legislation that would allow alcoholic drinks to be served on public property was described to the Vicksburg Village Council by Manager Jim Mallery.

The legislation, which became law July 1, gives a municipality the authority to create a social district where patrons are allowed to consume drinks purchased from a local bar, restaurant or brewery. The law is intended to provide more space for social distancing and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Vicksburg could, for example, designate a site downtown “commons area” where patrons could carry alcoholic drinks from an establishment into a space shared with other businesses. Currently, each establishment must have its own fenced-off outdoor space for serving alcohol.

The law requires that the municipality have a management and maintenance plan, including hours of operation and clearly marked signage that defines the common area. The legislation is open as to how large the area may be, but it must be adjacent to at least two restaurants, bars or breweries.

The drinks must be in plastic containers clearly marked with both the name of the common area and the establishment that sold the drink. The drinks may not leave the common area, nor are they allowed in another restaurant, bar or brewery.

Director of Community Engagement Alex Lee indicated that the staff is researching other communities that have created similar districts. “When we have carefully reviewed all these inputs, have business support, and have a workable plan, we will present to the council for additional review and input,” he said.

In other action, the Village Council approved event requests at the Pavilion including Harvest Fest, which is currently still scheduled for Sunday, September 27.

Mallery updated the Council on the sale of excess village-owned property on TU Avenue. The property was originally purchased by the village as part of a larger tract for the trail extension, but only a portion of the original tract was required for the trail.

The Council supported staff in its efforts to apply for federal funds as part of the CARES economic assistance act. Mallery indicated that he is still looking into allowable uses of the funds, but its purpose is to assist with payroll for essential employees such as police and Department of Public Works staff.

Mallery also updated the Council on the new public parking lot on Kalamazoo Avenue, adjacent to the post office. The Village has installed solar lights and has plans for bike racks and “free parking” signs. There will be a ribbon cutting, but no date has been set.

Council member Adams commented on the need for two additional Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee members. He reminded attendees that July 22 was the last day one can apply to run for office in the fall election.

Council members took a moment to remember active community member Bob Merrill, who passed away recently.

Attendee Jackie Koney expressed gratitude to Village staff for allowing local businesses to adapt to social distance requirements due to Covid-19. Staff provided “curbside pickup” locations for businesses and made arrangements for village-owned picnic tables to be used in outdoor service areas.

Schoolcraft resets village clean-up day to Sept. 19

By Max Hutchison

The Schoolcraft Village Council at a July meeting rescheduled the village-wide Clean Up Day previously scheduled for June, to Saturday, September 19th, from 8 a.m.-noon. Residents can bring items to Clay Street across from the Ken Krum Recreation Center.

Details regarding what items residents may drop off can be found on the Village’s website or in the Summer 2020 newsletter.

The council’s meeting, its first since the lockdown in March, was its first-ever online session via Zoom. All members were present and visible in the conferencing app, along with several resident attendees. Also present was Johnathan Ballentine from the village’s information technology staff. While the virtual meeting was conducted largely in the same manner as the council’s in-person meetings, council members cast their votes using the Zoom app’s internal electronic voting tool.

Two budget items kicked off the meeting’s agenda. An amendment to the budget transferred funds to balance the budget. Revenues were higher than expected for the 2020 fiscal year, allowing the Village to shift funds without dipping into its general fund. “Really, we did pretty good,” said Finance Director Tammy Young. The Council also opted out of a state law which sets limits on contributions to employee medical benefit plans.

In an attempt to ensure the timeliness of the Village’s newsletter, the Council approved an expedited method for reviewing President Keith Gunnett’s standing article. Previously, the article was not subject to the Council’s oversight; the Council began reviewing it in October, 2019 when the viewpoints of council members diverged on the necessity, process, and costs associated with approving a village sanitary sewer system. While the process has since involved a month-long review by Council members, the new process will allow Village Manager Cheri Lutz to approve Gunnett’s article on shorter notice, raising issues with the full Council only when she identifies a potential issue.

Rounding out the agenda, Trustee John Stodola made known his desire to keep the Village active in the County’s Disaster Mitigation Plan with the pandemic in mind. “Things are profoundly different now than they were six months ago when we last got together,” Stodola commented. Lutz informed the Council that she had been in contact with the County, and a representative would soon be attending a village meeting to give the Council an update on the Disaster Mitigation Plan.

While the sanitary sewer project was not listed as an agenda item, it was briefly discussed in the council’s committee reports. Stodola remarked that a Wightman engineering consultant will be visiting the Council in the coming months to discuss an alternate proposal for the sewer plan. While Stodola was unsure of the details, he said he believes that the new plan will involve a sewer line running down Route 131 toward Kalamazoo. A longtime Wightman employee, Alan Smaka, who has advised the Village in the past, has since left the engineering firm to work as a project consultant for the South County Sewer Authority. Stodola also confirmed what had previously been discussed at Council meetings, that Vicksburg would not be joining Schoolcraft on a sewer project. Stodola did note, however, that Lockport Township has expressed interest in joining the project and would be discussing the possibility with the South County Sewer Authority going forward.

Local and State Races, 911 Tax on Aug. 4 Primary Ballot

South Kalamazoo county residents will nominate partisan candidates for federal, state, county and township offices in the August 4 primary.

Candidates in contested primary races were asked to submit a 200-word statement about themselves and their positions along with a photo.

Residents on Aug. 4 will also decide a ballot issue to pay for a central public safety communication system and 911 service system.

Polls will open at 7 a.m., close at 8 p.m.

The ballot question:

“For the purpose of funding a central public safety communication system and 9-1-1 service system, shall the constitutional limitation upon the total amount of taxes which may be assessed in one (1) year upon all property within the County of Kalamazoo, Michigan, be increased in an amount up to but not to exceed 0.65 mills ($0.65 on each $1,000 of taxable value) for a period of ten (10) years (2020 – 2029 inclusive), to be distributed to the Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority for countywide 9-1-1 facilities, functions and services as provided in the Kalamazoo County Emergency 9-1-1 Service System Plan? If approved and levied in full, this millage would raise an estimated $6,111,513 in the first calendar year of its levy based on taxable value.”

GOP Senate Primary

John James.

Republicans Bob Carr and John James are competing in Michigan’s Aug. 4 U.S. Senate primary to oppose incumbent Democrat Gary Peters in the Nov. 3 election. The six-year term pays $174,000 annually. Carr did not submit a biography and statement.

John James has lived his life placing service before self.  As a combat veteran, businessman, husband and father, John believes Michigan deserves leadership dedicated to protecting our freedoms for the next generation. 

As a teenager, John decided to serve his country in the U.S Army. He graduated from West Point and went on to become a Ranger-qualified aviation officer. John served with distinction in Operation Iraqi Freedom where he logged over 750 combat flight hours, leading two Apache helicopter platoons.

After eight years of service to the nation, John James returned to Detroit to work in the family business, James Group International. As president, John grew the company into a major trading partner with Michigan’s auto industry.

John’s main priorities when elected to the U.S. Senate:

• Reforms to our healthcare policy that protect pre-existing conditions and at-risk populations without passing along undue burdens to patients, providers and businesses.

• Reducing barriers to entry for entrepreneurs who want to create jobs in their community.

• Champion national security policies that secure our positioning as leaders in the global marketplace.

John and his wife, Liz, have made their family home in Farmington Hills, where they are raising their three boys.  John looks forward to serving his country and protecting our Constitutional freedoms as a member of the U.S. Senate.

Two in GOP 6th District Race

In the 6th Congressional District, incumbent Fred Upton of St. Joseph is facing Elena Oelke, also of St. Joseph, for the Republican nomination in the Aug. 4 primary. Jon Hoadley and Jen Richardson, both of Kalamazoo, are seeking the Democratic nomination for the post in the primary. The winners of those elections will face off in the Nov. 3 election for a two-year term. The post pays $174,000 annually. The 6th Congressional District includes counties of Kalamazoo, Allegan, Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Van Buren.

Elena Oelke: Successful businesswoman, real estate broker, educator, international business background, multi-lingual, top of class magna cum laude master’s degree graduate, brings top-notch skills to represent Michigan’s Sixth District in U.S. Congress, running to be your voice in D.C. Stands to protect U.S. Constitution, our rights, our freedom and America’s future. My motto: “I get things done for you. No excuses.”

Congressman Fred Upton – known more commonly as “Fred” – is a sincere, hardworking leader who listens to all perspectives and achieves results for folks here in Southwest Michigan. In the midst of these challenging times, Fred has helped rush coronavirus relief to southwest Michigan families, is working to protect Michigan seniors, and is fighting in Washington to help get our economy on the road to recovery. Meanwhile, Fred has also continued his efforts to support our extraordinary veterans, protect our country’s national defense, preserve our Great Lakes, and increase opportunities for our agriculture industry. In D.C. and here at home, Fred is known for his work ethic and has consistently been named one of the “Top 25 Hardest Working Members of Congress.” He delivers results for the folks he represents – always has and always will. Fred is a graduate of the University of Michigan and remains a die-hard Wolverines and Cubs fan. He and his wife of 30 years, Amey, are the proud parents of two children and just had their first grandchild earlier this year.

Dem 6th District Race

Jon Hoadley is a three-term Michigan state representative from the 60th District and a lifetime advocate for change who comes from a family of educators and a tradition of public service. Jon graduated from Michigan State University and worked as an organizer and advocate, ultimately starting a small business that worked with community organizations and non-profit groups to promote civil rights, economic justice, and clean air and water. Jon and his partner, Kris, live in Kalamazoo with the world’s friendliest beagle, Benjamin. As a state representative, Jon partners with our community to invest in education, build an economy for everyone, advocate for social justice, and clean up the environment. Jon is running for Congress in Michigan’s 6th District to put people and community back in the center of decisions being made in Washington because it’s time we face the future and our country’s challenges head-on with fresh ideas.

Jen Richardson is a science teacher and mother of two young girls in Kalamazoo. Her family is confronted with the same issues that a majority of citizens in the 6th Congressional district face every day, issues like access to high-quality childcare and education, health care, and jobs that provide good incomes and benefits for working families. Jen has been teaching in public high schools for almost a decade, including in Chicago, Ill. and South Haven. Jen has held close ties to Michigan through family since birth and she is running for office now because she believes we need to change the face of Congress so that it better represents the people. Jen is advocating for people from the frontlines of our communities, including teachers, nurses, and social workers, to have a seat at the table crafting the policies that affect our lives. Her values center on faithful representation, supporting working people and families, and fighting inequality.  She believes elected officials must reflect the diversity and needs of their constituents. She wants to help Americans live happier, healthier lives and is a fierce advocate for equality by strongly supporting an antiracist agenda that provides equity to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

61st House District Race

Tom Graham and Bronwyn Haltom, both of Kalamazoo, are running for the Republican nomination in the 61st state House district. The winner will face Democrat Christine Morse, also of Kalamazoo, in the Nov. 3 election for the two-year term. Incumbent Rep. Brandt Iden is term-limited. The district includes townships of Schoolcraft, Oshtemo, Prairie Ronde, Texas and the City of Portage. State representatives are paid a base salary of $71,685.

Tom Graham: I love my community. I was born and raised here. I went to Kalamazoo public schools. I’ve had a career here and owned businesses here. My family has been on the same land for 85 years. I have a commitment to Michigan’s future. After the COVID shutdown, riots and an already weak real estate market, we will need to do everything we can to get people back to work safely and as quickly as possible. The state coffers are running low and unemployment demands are still high. State revenue will need to be allocated wisely with economic support as the number one priority. The government’s only tools to support an economy are low taxes (sales, property and income taxes), as well as providing good infrastructure and an educated workforce. State college support is 25 percent of Michigan’s budget. State grants to college students may need to be restricted to degrees that are directly beneficial to Michigan’s economy, and students receiving grants may have to sign legally binding agreements to stay and work in Michigan after graduation. Student flight is a very real problem. We have a long road ahead of us. I hope you find me worthy of your vote.

Bronwyn Haltom: I have a simple reason for running for state representative: I believe in our state and am willing to fight for an even brighter future. I grew up in Oshtemo, went to Kalamazoo Valley Community College before earning my degree at the University of Michigan, and returned home to start a small business with my husband, Thomas. Our state is primed with so much talent and opportunity, but like many of us, I’m worried. Worried about our future. As our state recovers from the damage caused by COVID-19, we must focus on the things that matter to Michiganders – preparing students for the jobs of tomorrow, building better roads, and rebuilding our economy with good jobs right here in our community.  My parents, my sister, and myself are small business owners in Kalamazoo County, and I understand the tough decisions being made all across Michigan as we decide how to move our economy forward safely.  Our state is truly at a crossroads – do we move forward with the commonsense priorities that revived our state, or fall backwards into another lost decade? I hope to be part of the solution in Lansing that puts partisan politics aside and delivers for our community. 

Two Dems in 63rd District

Ron Hawkins.

Ron Hawkins of Battle Creek and Luke Howell of Richland are running for the Democratic nomination in the 63rd state representative primary Aug. 4. The winner will face incumbent Matt Hall of Marshall for a two-year term in the Nov. 3 election. The 63rd House district includes townships of Brady, Charleston, Climax, Comstock, Pavilion, Richland, Ross, Wakeshma, and parts of Calhoun County. The post pays a base salary of $71,685. Howell did not provide a biography and position statement.

Ron Hawkins: A simple summation of who I am: Just a farm boy from Indiana who ended up living in Michigan because I have had an interesting life. 41 years of my working life have been within the Federal government’s largest bureaucracy, the Department of Defense. Historical events in my early life that I recall are the Kennedy-Nixon debates (10), Bay of Pigs (11), Cuban missile crisis (12) and the assassination of President Kennedy (13).

I believe the state’s greatest challenges over the next decade are the expanding unelected bureaucracy, infrastructure and revenue. I believe the ideal relationship between the governor and the state legislature is that which clearly recognizes constitutional responsibilities and limitations of each, while maintaining an equitable working relationship. It is necessary to develop a working relationship with other legislators in order to attain a consensus in achieving effective legislation. Legislative committees I desire to serve on are the Oversight Committee, Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Agriculture Committee, and Government Operations Committee. The book which will help you understand political philosophy is “War is a Racket” by Smedley Butler. My qualities that would make me a successful representative are honesty, straightforwardness, and common sense. The two legislators I would like to emulate are John Fitzgerald Kennedy (leadership/labor support) and Edward William Proxmire (challenge government waste) Details of my life, beliefs and issues are available at http://www.RonHawkins2020.com.

Brady Township Clerk Race

Incumbent Michelle Crawford and challenger Christian Wines are seeking the Republican nomination for Brady Township clerk in the Aug. 4 primary. The current salary for the four-year term is $36,522.

Michelle Crawford for Brady Township Clerk: I am running for re-election for Brady Township Clerk. I believe my experience and dedication to the people of Brady Township makes me the best candidate for this position. I have the experience and knowledge for this position and have served Brady Township since 2012. My experience includes hours of specialized training as well as on the job training. I have served in a number of different capacities in local government including Planning Commission, trustee, and more. I am also a member of the Michigan Townships Association. I believe in being fully transparent and accountable for all decisions and actions that are placed before the Board. Our businesses and residents deserve to know what is happening in the township, and the best way we can provide this information is through open communication and mutual respect. My goal is to be helpful, insightful, and to be open-minded about new and old issues as they arise. On a personal level, you will find that I am honest, I have integrity, I am respectful of others and, as your township clerk, I will commit to providing you with the best service possible delivering factual and honest information.

Christian Wines: I’m currently going to Western Michigan University. I’ll be graduating in December, with a bachelor’s degree in political science. For the past year and a half, I have worked for the Village of Vicksburg, gathering crucial knowledge that I will bring with me to the Township. Being able to grow up in a community where everybody is so close to one another is a blessing in its own. Now I have an opportunity to give back to this community that I was so fortunate to grow up in. And to have the amount of support that I have – it has been surreal. To also have the support of Brady Township Supervisor Tracy Locey and Trustee John Meyer is such an honor. I am running for township clerk to ensure transparency and fiscal responsibility. I believe that elected officials owe it to all their constituents to be as transparent as possible. Elected officials should also keep the taxpayer’s best interests in mind when conducting business, since that is who they are representing. As Brady Township Clerk, I will ensure that the best interests of all township residents are kept in mind, in orders of business.

Three in Kalamazoo County Clerk Primary

Doreen Gardner, Sarah Joshi and Meredith Place are running for the Democratic Party nomination to face Republican Mona Lisa Watson in the Nov. 3 election for a four-year term as Kalamazoo County Clerk/Register of Deeds. The winner will replace retiring incumbent Tim Snow, a Republican. The 2020 salary for the post is $118,102.

My name is Doreen Gardner. I am a native of Kalamazoo and have lived in this wonderful community my entire life. I am running for Kalamazoo County Clerk, where I hope to use my creative and strategic expertise to enhance services offered to our diverse constituents. Many do not know what the County Clerk office does, or the potential economic growth opportunities that can be facilitated from that office. I believe in excellent, expedient and hospitable service for all, including convenient hours for those who have jobs. Part of my vision includes protecting the integrity of voters and the process. I also plan to observe and appraise current systems while looking for opportunities to upgrade and streamline processes.

I have connections to the business, educational, faith and non-profit sectors of our community. My experience includes 25 years of successful management experience with a Top 10 Fortune 500 Company. I am also a member of Southwest Michigan First – Leadership Kalamazoo Class of 2020, a John Maxwell Leadership Trainer and Life Coach, a Kalamazoo election chairperson, a licensed and ordained minister, and on the Northside Ministerial Alliance Leadership Team and more.

Vote for Doreen Gardner – service, leadership, experience.

Sarah Joshi: The role of county clerk is one of the most complex in county government, responsible for upholding 596 state statutes. It is not an entry-level job.

As Tim Snow, one of Michigan’s longest-serving and most well-respected county clerks, steps aside this year, I will provide a seamless transition.

With a master’s degree in public administration, 20 years of elections experience – the last four of which have been as deputy county clerk and elections specialist – and as the only state-accredited election official in the race, I have the education, experience, relationships, stamina, and temperament to fulfill the role effectively.

My candidacy has broad bipartisan support, including the endorsement of elected officials throughout the county who understand the role of county clerk and rely on me currently to support and coordinate their work.

This is an important year. The next county clerk will be instrumental in drawing new county commission district lines. It is imperative to have someone in the office who has a proven track record of working fairly with all members of our community and upholding the law in an unbiased manner. I am that candidate.

I respectfully ask for your vote on August 4.

Meredith Place, Kalamazoo County Commissioner: Growing up, I learned that hard work and determination were recipes for success and caring for your neighbors was a moral responsibility. I was raised by a public school teacher and disabled Vietnam veteran who, through their experiences, taught me that politics is personal.

I’m running for Kalamazoo County Clerk/Register of Deeds because our next clerk must make expanding and protecting the right to vote a priority. I believe voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. We need a clerk who will implement the sweeping election changes that resulted from the passage of Proposal 3, including establishing satellite offices in densely populated areas where we see voter suppression, giving new registrants another place to register-in person and make voting more convenient.

I’m running to improve voter outreach and engagement by working with already established groups, neighborhood associations, and local township clerks to coordinate voter education efforts and innovative ways to make voting easier.

I will prioritize the security and integrity of our elections. As clerk/register, I’ll work to implement important technological improvements like e-filing, data sharing and using analytics to improve services. The time has come to modernize and enhance the Clerk/Register office to better serve our community.