FLINT TWP. — After nearly a year of effort, the drive to change the name of the township is on hold.
“We are in a hold mode because of concerns the Township Attorney has with the process of changing our name,” said Jerry Preston, chairperson of the Suggestion Committee, in a written update to the township board and to members of the committee.
The Suggestion Committee, a volunteer group of about 60 citizens, was formed last fall to research and recommend suggestions to either convert the township to a city or to change its name. The group concluded its work after about six months of study and in March recommended a name change.
Based on that recommendation, the township board hired a consultant to conduct a more comprehensive survey on how residents and business owners feel about a name change.
Initially the survey was to have been conducted in late June/early July, before the July Fourth holiday. Then the board decided to push it back until September after vacation seasons ends and more people are at home.
Now that survey has been put on indefinite and possibly permanent hold.
“(The township attorney) is reviewing state law that indicates that the County Board of Commissioners can act upon a petition of 20% of the Freeholders and is looking to guide us in the process.,” Preston said in his update.
One of the attorney’s concerns is first with the term “Freeholders” which was usually defined as a land owner, Preston said. In the past, only land owners could vote but that has changed and now all residents are eligible to vote.
“If we follow this precisely, it might be challenged as unconstitutional because all residents are now eligible to participate in their governance,” Preston said.
The attorney also has concerns about the form of the petition. There are several forms of petitions used for elections and for petitioning the courts. There are also online petitions for some activities.
“We have not been able to obtain a clear definition of the form of the petition and our work could be thrown out if a petition is declared to be invalid because of form,” Preston said.
Apparently, clarity could come from a simple addition to the Michigan Charter Township Act.
The Michigan Townships Association is the group that works on these types of legislative activities on behalf of Michigan townships.
Flint Township officials attempted to contact the MTA Legislative Director to ask for help to “shepherd” the name-change project but she was on a two-week vacation so the entire plan is on hold until an MTA response can be obtained.
As of July 21, Preston said he was still waiting for the MTA representative to respond to the township attorney’s request.
Preston also said he and the attorney have spoken about the name change with the Michigan Secretary of State and the Attorney General.
According to the Secretary of State office, there is no record of any township changing its name, other than when Flint Township changed its name from Garland Township in the mid 1800’s. And that reference came from imprecise recollections, Preston said. Further research is underway but for now they have not been able to find a previous township name change to use for guidance in this process.
In response to the update about the attorney’s concerns, township trustee Frank Kasle commented that needing help from the MTA made it sound like the name change issue is not going to fly.
Township Supervisor Karyn Miller responded that she did not interpret it that way.