CORUNNA — The Corunna City Council has rescinded a motion that would have placed a proposal eliminating the city’s ward system of representation on the March 10 ballot.
The decision to revoke the proposal during a Jan. 13 special meeting came after the city received consultation from the state Attorney General’s Office.
“When it went off to the Attorney General’s Office for review, they said they won’t allow charter amendment proposals to be on a presidential primary ballot,” City Manager Joe Sawyer said. “The Attorney General also found there was one other section in the charter that referenced the ward system, so we have to incorporate that into (any future ballot) language as well.”
Unlike neighboring cities Owosso and Durand, Corunna is divided into three wards, which determine its council representation. Only two council members may live in a single ward, meaning representation is split equally between the three areas of the city. However, city residents vote for all council candidates, regardless of which ward they live in, and council members serve four-year terms.
On Dec. 2, 2019, the city council voted unanimously to place the proposal eliminating the ward system on the March ballot.
The measure, if approved, would have eliminated a city charter requirement that one council person be elected from each of the city’s three wards during each regular city election; candidates would’ve been elected at-large instead, with the top three candidates earning the seats.
The decision to place the charter amendment on the ballot came as a response to a third ward vacancy on the council that had lasted for more than two years, with no applicants.
The vacancy was finally filled during the Jan. 13 meeting, however, as the city council appointed Adam Spannagel to the third ward seat, which represents the area north of the Shiawassee River.
Spannagel was the lone applicant, and the first applicant since the departure of Dawn Johnson in May 2017. He will be up for reelection in November because he was appointed, not elected, according to Sawyer.
“It’s nice, it’s been a real long time (since we’ve had a full council),” Sawyer said. “People have conflicts, people’s schedules today are very busy. They’re working different jobs, trying to raise families and moving in different directions. Having a vacancy at a meeting, you know, is not uncommon, but (now) it doesn’t hurt us that bad (in terms of maintaining a quorum).”
Despite having a full council for the first time in years, Sawyer indicated a future ballot proposal to eliminate the city’s ward system is not completely off the table.
“I can’t really see any reason myself for them (the council) not to ask the public the question,” Sawyer said, “but it’s something that’ll have to be brought back by the council (to take action).”
For the time being, Sawyer said, he and City Clerk/Treasurer Nichole Cowdrey will continue analyzing the city charter.
“We want to do a full review of that charter,” Sawyer said, “to make sure there’s nowhere else in there where there’s any other language or paragraphs that somehow need to be revised because of a reference to the ward system.”