5 Michigan township officials recalled for Chinese-owned Gotion project
- Green Charter Township residents voted to recall five remaining board members for approving the deal with Chinese-owned Gotion
- Voters in Eagle Township recalled the township supervisor for lack of transparency over plans for a megasite
Residents of a west Michigan township voted Tuesday to recall five remaining members of the township board for their approval of tax abatements for a Chinese-owned company tied to a new electric vehicle battery plant.
Residents in Green Charter Township, near Big Rapids, tossed the board members after months of mounting controversy relating to the battery plant deal and the Chinese connections of Gotion, Inc.
The battery plant deal was announced with fanfare last year by the Whitmer administration as part of an aggressive effort to attract EV investment to the state. The Gotion plant promises to bring billions of dollars in investment and 2,350 jobs to the region.
- Jobs v. China: How politics, communist ties roiled $2.3B Gotion plan in Michigan
- Farmland near Grand Ledge could be Michigan megasite for high-tech project
- Chinese EV battery factory planned near Big Rapids faces renewed scrutiny
- Anti-China ‘propaganda' stokes fears as Michigan town weighs Gotion factory
But there has been growing criticism of the deal, much of it from conservative politicians and media, tied to Gotion, Inc., which is a U.S. subsidiary of Gotion High-Tech Inc., which has ties to the Chinese Communist Party, which is accelerating its influence over Chinese businesses.
“With these successful recalls and ordinance repeal, Michigan is at the leading edge of this fight, and should be a warning sign to other states recklessly pursuing such ‘deals’ which jeopardize our national security,” said former United States Ambassadors Joseph Cella and Peter Hoekstra in a statement Wednesday morning.
Tuesday’s recalls remove township supervisor James Chapman, clerk Janet Clark, treasurer Denise MacFarlane and trustees Roger Carroll and Dale Jernstadt. Some were seen cleaning out their offices Tuesday night. (Two other trustees, James Peek and Gary Todd, resigned before the election.)
The recalled board members have been replaced by Jason Kruse (supervisor),Corri Riebow (clerk), Robert Henderson (treasurer), Kelly Cushway (trustee) and Dale Jernstadt (trustee).
Township residents filed a petition earlier this year to recall the board members, accusing them of failing to gauge community sentiment about the project. The factory is planned to border Big Rapids, just north of the township. In addition to stated concerns about national security, given the fraught relations between the U.S. and China, there were also questions about the environmental impact of the plant on the rural community.
The 3-million-square-foot, $2.3 billion EV battery factory also has supporters in the community, with backers citing the promised jobs in a region that has struggled with population loss.
But its detractors have made most of the noise. In April, a hundreds of people protested in Big Rapids after the line of demarcation for the plant was drawn, holding “No to Gotion” signs. It’s unclear, though, what Tuesday’s recall will do, if anything, to stop the project.
The Gotion votes weren’t the only recall efforts Tuesday relating to large development projects in Michigan.
Voters in Eagle Township, near Lansing, recalled township supervisor Patti Schafer, citing a lack of transparency over a planned megasite last year that ultimately went to another state.
Schafer had signed a non-disclosure agreement, with the township board’s approval, to work with parties interested in developing the property. She questioned why she was the only board member being recalled even though all board members had knowledge of the non-disclosure agreement.
Troy Stroud will replace her as township supervisor.
Covering the intersection of business and policy, and informing Michigan employers and workers on the long road back from coronavirus.
Thanks to our Business Watch sponsors.
Support Bridge's nonprofit civic journalism. Donate today.
See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:
- “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
- “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
- “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.
If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!