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Dissolution fever's in the air – hope we catch it

September 08, 2010 - I never thought I'd write this, but encouraging things are happening in the highfalutin City of the Village of Clarkston.

Encouraging that is for people like myself – true conservatives and libertarians who rejoice at the prospect of seeing the size of government reduced and its redundant layers eliminated.

Former Clarkston City Councilman Cory Johnston is planning to circulate a petition calling for the dissolution of the city.

If the effort is successful, the land comprising Clarkston would once again become part of Independence Twp.

What a novel idea. Imagine getting rid of an entire government and the high taxes that support it. I get all warm and tingly just thinking about it.

I wish someone here in the Village of Oxford would get off their duff, follow Johnston's lead and circulate a petition to dissolve the 1.4-square-mile municipality.

Believe it nor not, it could be done, according to William Fahey, an attorney who represents townships.

At an April 2010 workshop for the Michigan Townships Association, Fahey indicated the authority for dissolution is contained in the General Law Village Act, "but the process should apply to home rule villages as well."

The dissolution process begins with a petition signed by at least 15 percent of the village's registered voters.

This petition must ask for a vote on the question of disincorporating the village and returning its territory to the township in which it's located. The responsibility to determine whether the petition is legally sufficient falls to the township clerk, with whom the petition must be filed.

If the petition is sufficient, one of two things can happen.

The first scenario involves the village council creating a special commission charged with developing a disincorporation plan. This commission would consist of three village and three township appointees.

If the disincorporation plan is approved by the special commission, village council and township board, it then gets voted on by village and township residents. If a majority of village voters and a majority of township voters separately approve the plan, then the dissolution is a go.

If council chooses not to establish a disincorporation commission or if the disincorporation plan is not promptly approved by the commission and two governing boards, then the township clerk must submit the disincorporation question to the voters at the next general or special election in the village and township.

For the disincorporation to succeed, a two-thirds majority of the combined village and township voters who cast ballots on the question must vote "yes."

If the vote is favorable, the county Board of Commissioners is required to enter a resolution vacating the incorporation of the village.

Voila! The village government is no more and the two Oxfords are now one with one set of government officials, one set of government employees and most importantly, one set of property taxes.

Township residents worried about assuming village debts needn't fear because according to an April 2008 article penned by Fahey, "Any debts of the village must be assessed against the lands comprising the former village."

The only way this could possibly change, according to Fahey, was if a disincorporation commission devised an alternative way to pay off the village debts and put that in its plan.

But with three township appointees on the commission, the chances of having a plan that included township residents paying off village debts are slim to none – and slim just left the building.

Village residents worried about losing certain services also needn't fear.

According to Fahey, "After dissolution, special services provided to former village residents may be continued and supported by user fees or special assessments."

In essence, village residents could still get the services they love – like snow removal – without the overhead cost of supporting an entire extra layer of bureaucracy.

You don't need a village manager or council to keep your streets plowed.

The bottom-line is we have way too much government in our lives at all levels.

We can't seem to do anything about shrinking our bloated, self-serving, out-of-control state and federal governments.

But we can band together and force some reform at the local level. The best way to change the world for the better is to start in your own backyard.

It's time to begin chopping away at Michigan's maze of local governments and eliminating a good number of them.

This state has 83 counties, 1,240 townships, 274 cities, 259 villages, 553 school districts and 57 intermediate school districts.

Time to start dissolving and consolidating this costly mess of fiefdoms.

We have the right to petition. We have the right to vote. We have the right to speak our minds and persuade our neighbors.

Let's exercise these rights. If the voters want to keep the village as is, they will.

If they want to get rid of it, they will.

Either way, let's give the people something they rarely get from government these days – a genuine choice.

Who could be against that?

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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