Voters approve changes to city charter of Madison Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published November 15, 2023


MADISON HEIGHTS — Five proposed amendments to the charter of Madison Heights passed with overwhelming support Nov. 7, updating how the city approaches everything from appointments and resignations to the rules of running for office and how often meetings are held.


Proposal 1
Approved by 79.69% of the vote (2,687 votes), Proposal 1 is about how the mayor pro tem will be appointed. The mayor pro tem is the council member who fills in for the mayor when needed.

Currently, the mayor and council vote on the mayor pro tem at their first meeting after a mayoral election. Proposal 1 changes the rules so that the council member with the highest number of votes in the last regular city election is the new mayor pro tem and serves for the next two years.

Proposal 1 will first take effect during the regular city election in 2025. This is the first time it has been changed since 1985.


Proposal 2
Approved by 72.82% of the vote (2,459 votes), Proposal 2 is about who can run for elected office in Madison Heights.

Currently, a member of the Madison Heights City Council must resign their elected office prior to running for mayor in the city. Likewise, if a person already holds elected office for the state, county or another city, they must resign from their elected office before running for office in Madison Heights.

Proposal 2 changes that so candidates can remain in their current offices while they campaign, and they will only be required to resign from those offices once they’re elected in Madison Heights.

The change will first take effect during the regular city election in 2025. This provision was last amended in 1961.


Proposal 3
Approved by 79.25% of the vote (2,529 votes), Proposal 3 determines how resignations are to be handled.

Currently, when an elected official or an appointed board member resigns, the council must accept or reject the resignation at its meeting.

Proposal 3 changes the rules so that the council only handles resignations for its own members, including the mayor, while the resignations of appointed board members and commission members will be handled by the city’s administrative staff.

The change will be effective this year and marks the first time this has been amended since the charter was adopted.


Proposal 4
Approved by 76.53% of the vote (2,482 votes), Proposal 4 decides how vacancies are filled in elected offices.

Currently, if the mayor’s office is vacant, the council votes to appoint one of its members to serve as mayor for the rest of the term. For a vacancy on the council, the council appoints a new member at the next meeting after the vacancy occurs, choosing the runner-up from the last regular city election. If there is no runner-up, the council votes on another resident to fill the vacancy.

Proposal 4 changes the rules so that a vacancy in the office of mayor is instead filled by the mayor pro tem, starting at the next council meeting after the vacancy. The vacancy created by the mayor pro tem, in turn, will be filled by the council member who received the second highest number of votes in the last regular city election. Both the mayor and mayor pro tem will then serve until the next regular city election. Vacancies on council will be handled the same as before.

The changes will first take effect during the 2025 regular city election. The rules for vacancies in elected office were last amended in 1984.


Proposal 5
Approved by 71.35% of the vote (2,338 votes), Proposal 5 concerns the number of council meetings held throughout the year.

The charter currently requires the council to hold at least two regular meetings each month, except during December when only one meeting is required, for a total of 23 regular meetings per year.

Proposal 5 still requires the council to hold 23 regular meetings each year but affords more scheduling flexibility by allowing a minimum of only one regular meeting in any given month.

The change goes into effect this year. The last amendment was in 2001, when dates were changed to allow for one meeting in December.


Historic change
Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein spoke about the historic nature of the vote.

“It has been years since we have asked our residents to vote on anything like this, and I feel that five proposals at once are too many,” Grafstein said in an email. “My preference would have been to see one or two proposals annually at each November election, so that slowly we can make modifications as residents see fit.

“I am glad that Proposals 3 and 5 passed, so that staff can administratively accept board resignations, and so that we can move the last meeting of the month to the next month if occasionally needed,” she said. “I voted ‘no’ on the other three proposals, as I feel the appointments of mayor pro tem and interim mayor should stay in the purview of the council. 

“During my time on council, we have had the pro tem appointment vote be 7-0 three times, (and) 6-1 and 5-2. When I was appointed mayor, it was by a 4-2 vote. So, even when the votes were not unanimous, there was the opportunity for discussion, and for the voice of each council member to be heard,” Grafstein said. 

“Finally, I feel that having the mayor and up to six council members running for election for one position would create a hostile environment for council to work in,” she said. “The mayor and council members are elected as independents who need to work together. Even if there are only two people running for one spot, it can make compromise and cooperation more difficult, and this sets up for a contentious election between supposed team members every two years.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Bliss commended the voters for helping modernize the city’s founding document. 

“I can only speak for me — not all of council — but I will say whichever way the citizens chose, I’d be supportive, whether they confirmed or denied them. I’m just thankful we had the dialogue; that we were able to read and review these, look at the proposals put out by the clerk’s office, and give them their say,” Bliss said. “And I hope we, as a council, continue to do this, updating older policies that may not fit a modern city government. These charter proposals were democracy at work.”  

Madison Heights City Councilman Sean Fleming agreed.

“There was a lot for voters to read across all five charter amendments. I’m impressed how involved people got — you can tell they were really interested in them all,” he said. “And I think for all five to pass shows the city did a good job explaining what they were about. It’s incredible.”