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Kalamazoo City Commission approves Foundation for Excellence, leaves some residents unhappy

Downtown Kalamazoo.
Michigan Municipal League
Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM
Downtown Kalamazoo.

The city of Kalamazoo will now have more money at its disposal -- half a billion dollars more.

The Kalamazoo City Commission last night approved a gift from a private foundation that will replace a portion of the city’s budget.

Mayor Bobby Hopewell says the Foundation for Excellence can be very important to the city's future.

"Perfection's not here, but I know we worked hard to cover the gamut of issues that may come up in the future," Hopewell said. 

Hopewell says the foundation will only accept donations that align with the city’s priorities, but several city residents criticized the foundation for giving the rich more influence in local politics.  

Shannon Sykes is one of two city commissioners who voted against the resolution.

She says the way the bylaws were written puts more power in the hands of a few rich benefactors.

“The amount of money you give should not give you the position and power to influence decisions in government,” Sykes said.

Eponine Garrod is a Kalamazoo resident who is running to represent Michigan’s sixth congressional district, a seat currently held by Republican Fred Upton.

Garrod believes this vote sets a bad precedent for local politics.

“This vote shows that people can essentially buy their government if they throw out enough dollars, and that’s not something [Kalamazoo residents] should have to live with,” Garrod said.

Those in favor of the resolution believe the money can be used for good.

Vice Mayor Don Cooney says the foundation isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it’s a start.

“No one is saying the foundation will save the city, but it can certainly help in ways that we’ve needed for a long time,” Cooney said.

The city commission has final approval of how any money from the foundation is spent, according to city officials.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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