Peter Clemens, 52, was defeated in his recent bid for reelection as village president by former village president Jeff Miller. Clemens had served as village president since March 2004, after achieving a council seat by appointment in July 2003. Prior to that, he served on the village park commission for seven years, six of those as chairman. Clemens has been a resident of Holly for over 15 years.
At the first post-election meeting of the village council Clemens announced plans for a meeting on the topic of cityhood, as reported by The Holly Express (http://www.thehollyexpress.com/community/local-news-holly-michigan-48442/988–former-holly-president-to-champion-cityhood-cause-). I asked him about these plans.
Minutes after Jeff Miller was sworn in as Village President, you announced an informational meeting on the subject of cityhood. Is this campaign a matter of sour grapes?
No, it’s not about sour grapes. As far as I know President Miller and all of the new council members are in favor of Holly becoming a home ruled city. This is an issue that has interested me for some time now, but I didn’t want to act on it until I was no longer on the council. Had anybody else decided to champion this cause while I was still on council, they would have had my full support. But I think that it’s important for council members to adopt a neutral position on this matter to diffuse the notion that the only people in Holly that are interested in cityhood sit on the council.
As I recall, the last time cityhood was a major issue, Jeff Miller was village president and he said something to the effect that he didn’t want to be the city’s first mayor, but merely the village’s last president. Seems to me you’re seeking to make his wish come true.
I suppose that it may seem that way. But I would have taken up this cause no matter who was elected. Mr. Miller was gracious enough to wish me luck and asked me to let him know when it was time to vote on cityhood.
Explain your position that council members should remain neutral on the issue. Aren’t they elected to examine options that may benefit the village? Why didn’t you pursue it as president?
The pundits have long used the argument that no one except the council is interested in cityhood. Their claim is that the council is interested in cityhood because it would facilitate some mythical power grab and satisfy this unceasing desire to raise taxes through the roof. It will be much harder for them to make that same claim if this effort is being run by citizens rather than by council members. .
So cityhood is not about the ability to raise taxes? Would it in fact give the new city the ability to raise new taxes? What specifically are the advantages of cityhood?
I’m not sure why people think that a name change from “the Village of” to “the City of “ has to cost more. The major advantage of becoming a city is that it allows us to maximize the return of tax dollars from Lansing via statutory revenue sharing. If a city gets a bigger share of the pot then why would we need higher taxes? I think that it is also very important that the people remember that the voters must approve any tax hike; council cannot levy a tax increase without the direct consent of the people.
You didn’t quite answer that question. Does being a city open up opportunities to levy new taxes?
Yes, a city could institute a city income tax. This is a tax that would be deducted from the paycheck of people who work within the city limits. This would again have to be approved by a direct vote of the people.
Currently village residents are township residents, and as such pay one mill to the township for election administration and tax assessment and collection. If the village became a city, how would the new city provide for those services?
This is an excellent opportunity for the city and the township to partner together and find economies of scale through bidding these services out together in the case of assessing. If possible, in the case of elections the city could pay the township to continue to maintain the voter rolls and run the elections.
Would residents of the new city still pay a millage for the township library and for the township parks?
You stumped me on this one. But as we move forward in the process of cityhood education, this is one of those questions that we can answer after some investigation is done.
How would cityhood impact the progress on shared services the community has made of late?
All of the same reasons to share municipal services would remain. The only thing that might change would be the willingness of an aggrieved elected official or two to continue coming to the table to negotiate. But that too shall pass.
Aggrieved? What do you mean by that, and how will it pass?
I guess what I mean is that some people may feel that the 1 mill that the village pays the township is an entitlement, and they might feel put out if they lose this entitlement. How long it takes for this sentiment to pass depends on how long it takes to realize that this was not something they were entitled to.
The township is entitled to collect that one mill from all township property owners. If the village became a city, those residents would no longer be township residents. Some people are under the impression that if the village became a city, it would encompass the entire township. Is this your intention?
Initially, no. But I think I could show even township residents the wisdom of coming around to that way of thinking.