Monday, June 3 — A new Facebook group — started by a Lansing Township resident — advocates for the dissolution of the township and is slowly gaining followers and media attention.
Township resident Joshua Pugh created the Facebook group, “Dissolve Lansing Township,” on April 28. Pugh was on WKAR’s Current State this morning, along with Larry Merrill, executive director of the Michigan Townships Association, to discuss the movement he’s trying to start.
“What this comes down to is establishing a new culture, a new solution-oriented way of doing things, for the mid-Michigan region,” Pugh said on the program. He works as a communications specialist for the progressive political group Progress Michigan. Pugh said he found the discussion on the idea so far to be very “personality oriented“ and “petty.”
Just ask Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who has been supportive of the concept of consolidating into a larger metro region, or Lansing Township Supervisor Kathleen Rodgers about the idea and you’re sure to get some bombastic comments. The two have butted heads over the issue in the past. (Current State host Mark Bashore invited Rodgers to be on the show, but she declined.)
Pugh said he understood that the idea of dissolving Lansing Township was a “radical solution,” but said he was just trying to start a “discussion” about improving the region.
“It’s not only radical, it’s probably got an uphill battle,” Merrill said of Pugh’s idea.
Merrill said it would be a “tough sell” to convince Lansing Township residents that their government should become part of the city of Lansing because of higher tax rates and “unfunded legacy costs” for retired city employees.
This is not an “assault” on the township system as a whole, Pugh said, adding that Lansing Township is not your “typical township” — especially geographically. The township is made up of five noncontiguous areas surrounding the city of Lansing, which makes for confusing jurisdictional boundaries.
Pugh also had beef with the township maxing out its bonding capabilities with the state by financing the latest expansion at Eastwood Towne Center. He said now the township is stuck when it comes to getting funds for redeveloping places like an abandoned General Motors site within its boundaries.
With 50 percent of the state’s population living in townships, Merrill said township government is “the government of choice” for Michigan residents. He added that 96 percent of Michigan’s land mass is under the jurisdiction of a township government.
Bashore also pointed out a City Pulse story that said consolidating or dissolving townships is not a situation that has very much precedence.
In an email, Pugh said he had hoped to discuss his ideas with Rodgers or another Lansing Township board member.
“It’s disappointing that elected officials from Lansing Township aren’t even willing to sit down with grassroots activists and have a conversation about changing the status quo,” he said. “The township system dates back to the 1780s, and although it may work just fine for rural residents, it’s far outlived its usefulness for the Lansing area. It’s time for us to come together and find a better way.”