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City Blog

Feb 11

City proposals on primary election ballot

Posted on February 11, 2020 at 10:35 AM by Jessica VanderKolk

It is a big year in 2020 for elections -- voters in the City of Battle Creek will choose the president, many state positions, county positions and issues, city commissioners, and two city proposals.

Neighbors may remember that, in 2018 the City Commission appointed a Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee to discuss our city charter, and consider making recommendations for changes, such as the mayor is selected, and the language used in the city charter.

Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee logo 2018

Commissioners took this action because, in 2014, that commission was deadlocked for nearly four hours in an attempt to choose a mayor. Currently, commissioners vote among themselves to choose the mayor and vice mayor each year at the November organizational meeting.

The BRAC's work, which included their own meetings, discussions with neighbors, analysis of information provided by the city attorney, and analysis of feedback provided by over 1,300 neighbors via a survey. As a result, Battle Creek registered voters will see two related proposals on the March 10 primary election ballot.

The first will ask voters if we should remove all gendered language from the city charter -- meaning we will use pronouns like "they" and "them" instead of "he" and "him." The commission believes this is the right thing to do in this modern and accepting time, to show better inclusivity in our language.

The second proposal will ask voters if they want to elect the mayor as a separate office. Selection of the vice mayor would remain at the commission's organizational meeting.

If voters approve the direct-elect mayor proposal on March 10, voters in the Nov. 3 general election will elect five ward and three at-large commissioners, plus one mayor. This keeps our total at nine commissioners. 

Data from the city attorney
  • In the 49 Michigan cities with a population between 15,000 and 100,000, only seven of those cities' mayors are selected by the commission/council.
  • The mayors of the other 42 cities is selected by voters as a separate office, or as the top at-large vote-getter. 
  • 35 of the 49 total cities have city manager-council governments (like Battle Creek), and in 28 of those voters select the mayor as a separate office, or as the top at-large vote-getter.
Some history:
  • 1913 -- According to the charter, also acted as the executive head of the organization.
  • 1960 -- The commission approved charter revisions that put the current process in place. Before then, Battle Creek voters directly elected the mayor, who served a two-year term.
  • 1969 -- A Citizens for Charter Amendment group circulated petitions for proposals that included direct election for mayor and vice mayor, but they were invalidated in court because of improper language.
  • 1969 -- Voters rejected a city commission proposals for mayor being the candidate with the highest number of votes in even-year elections.
  • 1980 -- Voters rejected a proposal in which the mayor would be the at-large candidate with the most votes.
  • 1984 -- A charter review committee suggested the mayor be selected based on being the at-large candidate with the most votes, but no action was ever taken on this recommendation. A review committee suggested a separate ballot for mayor, but the city commission never considered this.
  • 1993 -- The city commission tabled a proposal by one commissioner to give voters two votes on a separate ballot, with the top vote-getter becoming mayor, and the second becoming vice mayor.
  • 2004 -- A blue ribbon committee formed to discuss the mayor's selection, but its ultimate recommendation was to not change the current charter. 
  • 2005 -- Despite the 2004 recommendation, a commissioner initiated a resolution proposing a charter amendment for the direct election of the mayor -- essentially the same proposal voters will see this year. However, the 2005 proposal did not receive the required 3/5 commission vote to get on the ballot.

Especially because you can now vote absentee for no specific reason, we hope all eligible Battle Creek neighbors will vote on March 10, and in all of the 2020 elections. You can find more information here on our website, at

Dec 09

Preliminary info for 12/18 presidential campaign visit

Posted on December 9, 2019 at 4:29 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

The Battle Creek community is preparing for a re-election campaign event with President Donald Trump planned for next Wednesday, Dec. 18.

This type of visit is exciting for Battle Creek, and comes with many logistical and planning questions and concerns.

Campaign staff, the U.S. Secret Service, city staff, and others will work together to coordinate the needs for this event. While city staff do not yet know all of the details to answer the community’s questions, we want to share what we know today.

We expect to share more as we get closer to the 18th, and we appreciate the questions, and everyone’s patience.

  • The campaign rally is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at Kellogg Arena, in downtown Battle Creek. We anticipate a larger crowd than the arena’s capacity, so overflow will be at the adjacent Festival Market Square. Please watch the weather forecast, and dress for that day’s conditions, since December weather can be unpredictable, and we would expect cold temperatures and the potential for snow.
Kellogg Arena
  • Many neighbors have questions about the cost. As with any special event in the city, staff will track city costs associated with this event. We will seek reimbursement from all eligible and appropriate sources. Requesting money in advance can have legal ramifications.
    Kellogg Arena does have a contract with the campaign for services and costs associated with the event; the total will depend on the event’s final timing and activities.

  • Please know that staff are working on what parking will look like on Dec. 18 – for neighbors, businesses, and event attendees. We are working on potential shuttles, how people with disabilities can get to the arena, and related issues. 
    We know now that there is no parking on Dec. 18 in the structure at the corner of McCamly and Hamblin.

  • While we don’t have more information on parking and road closures yet, please expect closures, delays, and potential restrictions in and around downtown Battle Creek on Dec. 18.

  • The city is not involved in tickets for this event. Anyone interested in attending must register for them at the campaign’s website.

We appreciate everyone’s questions and attention. Please stay tuned for more information as we near the event date next week. 
Dec 04

City, local agencies continue collaborative housing work

Posted on December 4, 2019 at 12:05 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

We wrote this, in part, to help answer some of the community's questions related to the Econo Lodge.

Numbered streets neighborhood
Numbered streets neighborhood

City of Battle Creek and local service agency staffs know that we are home to neighbors facing the issues of both affording and accessing housing, and we continue our work together to understand those, and develop programs to help neighbors achieve one of our basic needs.

Barriers affecting our neighbors include past evictions, criminal records, and the inability to a first/last month’s rent and security deposit. Because of this, we know some neighbors live in our local shelters, in hotels and motels, or on the street.

Most recently, the city is pursuing a lawsuit against Econo Lodge, 165 Capital Ave. SW, to declare this hotel a public nuisance; police responded to 475 calls there in 2018 and early 2019, the highest call volume for a hotel/motel in the city. However, staff is sensitive to the fact that this displaces neighbors living there on a long-term basis. As of this writing, the city and hotel ownership reached a settlement in which the hotel will close for 90 days, starting in mid-December.

With this in mind, representatives from the Battle Creek Police Department, Summit Pointe, and the Calhoun County Homeless Coalition traveled door to door at the hotel, offering services to those neighbors.

Some already had moved out. Staff members spoke with other neighbors, connecting some to needed services, and leaving information for others. It is important to remember that some who would be eligible for local services do not want this help, and refuse it when offered.

We recognize that some people from the Econo Lodge may now live at other hotels and motels. The community together is working on a variety of programs and strategies to assist these neighbors and others in similar situations:

1. City staff hope to present to the City Commission in December a hotel/motel ordinance that could provide more oversight. Administrators hope to use this as a framework for improving conditions at other troubled hotels and motels in Battle Creek.

2. Neighbors who want to explore local services should call 211 – this is a direct connection to Summit Pointe and other agencies that can assist with housing, mental health services, and much more.

3. The city’s Community Development team is a collaborator in this type of work, and is in the midst of the next five-year Consolidated Plan, a guide for how the city spends federal funds on housing and other public needs. One of the overarching goals in the upcoming 2020-2024 plan is “to ensure a safe, prosperous, and equitable community by creating strong, sustainable, and inclusive neighborhoods and quality affordable homes for all people of Battle Creek.” The priority within that goal is “affordable, accessible, and safe housing,” which strengthens a community. Objectives within that priority are:

a. Ensure safety of rental housing

b. Increase number and diversity of housing options

c. Preserve and maintain existing affordable units

d. Increase access to affordable housing

4. Community Development staff regularly participate in collaborative work aimed at engaging landlords interested in “second chance” rentals, in order to make housing more accessible to those who experience barriers.

5. Other agencies also are participating in collaborative work to address housing affordability and accessibility. Legal Services of South Central Michigan offers help related to a variety of eviction situations, and many other housing-related needs. Some faith-based organizations are analyzing an affordable housing location in the city.

The team will work together, and with outside agencies, on ideas and programs to work toward these objectives.
NPC 1 - Post Addition neighborhood
Post Addition neighborhood