|The Macomb Daily|
|Wednesday, July 22, 2009|
By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Another historic marker in the movement toward an overhaul of Macomb County government was reached Tuesday when Gov. Jennifer Granholm approved the proposed county charter, setting the stage for a November public vote on Macomb's first constitution.
Moments after Granholm offered approval — and applause for the county Charter Commission's "diligent efforts" — the commission immediately scheduled one final meeting on Monday to schedule a Nov. 3 countywide ballot proposal to decide the charter's fate.
After a 6-month effort, the Charter Commission presented Granholm with the 26-page document on June 24 and the governor complied with her 30-day time-limit for approval. While a review of the charter by Attorney General's Office lawyers found several "areas of concern" — mostly related to the removal of the elected county executive for corruption or filling an executive vacancy — the document was found to be in compliance with the Michigan Constitution.
Megan Brown, a Granholm spokeswoman, said the governor, former chief legal counsel under Wayne County's charter/executive system, views the charter proposal as an effort to create an "appropriate and effective form of government" in the state's third-largest county.
Wayne is currently the only charter county in Michigan.
In a joint statement, Charter Commission Chair Jake Femminineo of Mount Clemens and Vice Chair Marilyn Lane of Fraser said the charter is a bipartisan effort by 26 citizen-commissioners who stepped forward to write the document.
"We believe that this charter is a sound document, built upon principle and well-defined standards that will allow a new office of county executive and a streamlined board of 13 commissioners to successfully lead our county into the future," the statement said.
In addition to creating an elected executive to oversee day-to-day operations and a smaller county board to "control the purse strings," the document would make several revisions: a ban on tax hikes without voter approval; strict balanced-budget requirements; a consolidation of much of the county bureaucracy into four basic departments; and an ethics board to scrutinize the actions of county officials and employees.
If the charter is approved by voters, the first county executive and the 13-member board — half of the current size — would be elected in November 2010 and take office in January 2011.
According to budget projections, the structural changes would result in a slight budget savings. The Board of Commissioners' expenses would be cut by $722,000, and the executive and an accompanying five-person staff would add $658,000 in expenditures.
The upcoming November vote on the charter would take place in conjunction with elections for local offices in Macomb's 12 cities. In the townships, the ballot would consist of a one-issue special election. All ballots countywide would include a separate proposal to place the Macomb County Road Commission under the authority of the executive.