Thursday, April 29, 2021

Trustees hear state update from Lansing lobbying firm

Julie Brown, Special Writer

Members of the Canton Board of Trustees received an update from the township lobbying firm representative during the regular meeting earlier this month.

COVID relief funds have arrived in Michigan from the federal government, but disagreements between the Legislature and executive branch at the Michigan Capitol have delayed plans for spending the money explained Stephanie Johnson of Khoury Johnson Leavitt, the firm which represents Canton in Lansing. 

“That we're going to have to figure out how to spend. There are a lot of disagreements going on,” said Johnson during her report to the board members during the April 13 meeting.

Johnson also addressed the current pandemic warning the officials, “We are nowhere near out of the woods.” Michigan had that day suspended use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due in part to blood clot concerns.

“We still have a long way to go before we are through this pandemic,” she added, noting public compliance with safety protocols  remains a concern.

Trustee Sommer Foster asked about roads, with Johnson explaining that there are no current talks about a fuel tax but that federal COVID relief dollars could be used to improve roads. She added that potholes are less severe this spring than others.

Johnson also updated the trustees on several Michigan Legislature bill packages, and noted having a budget in place by June is unlikely. A 39-bill package in the Senate is on election reform, driven by the Senate GOP Caucus, she said.

That package includes the information Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson must publish on her website, as well as defining a qualified voter. Another bill package deals with recycling and is bipartisan, focused especially on communities of 5,000 or more.

Criminal justice reform bills include making law enforcement disciplinary records public, Johnson said. “We do have a Use of Force data base in the state,” she added of that effort with the FBI and Michigan State Police.

Also at the April 13 meeting, Canton Director of Municipal Services Jade Smith recommended that the township not join a regional water authority with Livonia, Northville Township and Westland.

Smith noted Canton is still paying debt on the water tower built in the summer of 2018, and that with minor changes Canton can reach considerable cost savings.

The five board members present - Supervisor Anne Marie Graham-Hudak, Treasurer Dian Slavens, and Trustees Tania Ganguly, Sommer Foster and Kate Borninski - agreed that is preferable.

Several staffers of OHM Advisors spoke to the board members about the water storage issues at the meeting, and Smith planned to contact the firm. He said the other three communities are also contacting their elected bodies.