At the Grand Haven Tribune's recent forum on the Dewey Hill Cross, Mitch Kahle, a civil rights activist from Muskegon who recently returned to Michigan from Hawaii, made an interesting comment.
(Kahle sought D.C. lawyers to fight the City of Grand Haven for allowing the cross, and debate has raged in the City over the last few weeks after Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent the City a "demand letter.")
READ MORE ABOUT THE CONTROVERSY HERE
Kahle advised that residents interested in the cross issue "call Pat McGinnis and ask him what he's going to do" in response to the demand letter.
Pat McGinnis is the City Manager for Grand Haven and does indeed have broad authority administering the City and making recommendations to City Council.
In the structure of Grand Haven City government, McGinnis is the defacto Mayor in the way most people think of a Mayor-he's the person who runs the City on a day-to-day basis, responsible for overseeing all City departments, including the GH Dept. of Public Safety.
However, McGinnis does not have the final say as to what happens in this situation, and cross proponents don't need to blow up Pat's phone-they need to call and email City Council members. McGinnis serves at the pleasure of the elected City Council-they hire him. And voters "hire" City Council.
When McGinnis makes a recommendation to City Council, he is almost always listened to, though McGinnis does not get a vote on the 5 member Council.
Not too long ago, another controversy erupted on Dewey Hill: the Council voted to abolish the "Coast Guard City USA" sign on Dewey Hill after environmental concerns caused McGinnis to recommend it.
McGinnis made a hard decision- as he often has to do in his position, which he has held for almost 15 years. (He has been a fantastic leader for Grand Haven throughout that time.)
However, the public was outraged. Council members received emails, letters, calls-the response was overwhelming. Because of the public speaking out, City Council reversed their decision and the sign was allowed back on the hill.
City Council-not City Manager McGinnis-will make the final decision in the Cross controversy as well.
Cross proponents should contact Council and let them know where they stand. While the public can not vote on whether the cross stays, the public could initiate a vote to force the City to defend the Cross in court if a compromise can't be reached. If Council knows the public is engaged, no such vote will be needed-Council will defend the Cross on their own accord.
Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
Email him at WestMiPolitics@Gmail.com
|Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson|