ST. CLAIR SHORES — The city will no longer be part of a municipal group working to find ways to share services and lobby, after a vote by City Council failed to get the necessary support to maintain its membership.
Acting City Manager Mike Smith had brought a proposal to City Council in July from the Macomb Area Communities for Regional Opportunities (MACRO) for an interlocal agreement that would have allowed the group to solicit grant money, but several council members said they had concerns about what the group has done since its inception.
The organization was formed in early 2011 by representatives from Sterling Heights, Warren, Utica, Shelby and Clinton townships, and later added Center Line, Eastpointe, Fraser, Macomb County, Mount Clemens and Roseville as partners. St. Clair Shores had joined the group in August 2011.
“What we’ve seen since we’ve been a part of it has raised several questions in my mind,” said Councilman John Caron, who was not a council member when the city joined MACRO.
He said he didn’t appreciate when the group ventured “into the personal property tax debate” and signed a city official’s name to a lobbying letter without City Council’s permission. Because of that, he said he was leery of “locking us into a formal agreement with them,” and said he didn’t think St. Clair Shores had much in common with the other municipalities in the group.
“I don’t see where there’s going to be a lot of benefit to us in the future,” he said.
Councilwoman Candice Rusie agreed. She said council was originally told that MACRO was just going to be a venue for discussion between communities. Now, she said, the organization has aspirations for something much bigger.
“They want to provide services, they want to have employees … they want to handle funds, they want to get funds,” she said. “That’s not what we agreed to back in the day.”
Rusie said she is also concerned that MACRO could start competing for some of the grants St. Clair Shores itself tries to obtain.
“With grants, there’s only so much to go around,” she said. “I’m wary of this.”
But Councilman Peter Rubino said he believes it’s dangerous for cities to be “isolationist” these days and with no cost to continue to participate in the group, he said he’d rather sign the agreement to remain in MACRO.
“Just because we may not support one or two things and we are able to tell them we don’t support this … (it is) another slippery slope where we try to play isolationist and ignore what’s going on outside of us,” he said.
And Councilman Anthony Tiseo said since the city could still withdraw at any time, “it’s nice to know what’s going on and have some influence.”
Mayor Kip Walby concurred, pointing out that the city is also a member of the Michigan Municipal League and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, and City Council doesn’t always agree with their decisions, either. Smith said that one of the benefits of MACRO is that votes in the organization are not weighted in any way, and every community gets an equal say.
“I think there is some value to being in these groups,” Smith said. “So we have a seat at the table; we know what’s going on (even if) we may not always agree.”
“This is about trying to work together,” Rubino said. “We don’t know what it’s going to be like three, four, five years down the road. I just don’t get this isolationist attitude.”
But a motion by Rubino to sign MACRO’s interlocal agreement did not pass, with a vote of 3-3; Tiseo and Walby joined Rubino in voting for the measure, Chris Vitale joined Caron and Rusie in voting against, and Councilman Ronald Frederick was absent.
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