Flint Township tells the world: Please, don’t confuse us with Flint

Flint Township is separate from the City of Flint, and does not use Flint’s water system. Some township businesses and residents want to be known as Carman Hills. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Radio)

People in Flint Township are tired of the world confusing their community with the city of Flint.

Simply put, sharing a name with the city that’s known internationally for having suffered a crisis of lead-tainted water is bad for business.

That’s why more than 100 Flint Township residents spent several months last year lobbying to change the township’s name. They’ve petitioned lawmakers, but two bills to make it easier to do so are languishing in committee and will die without a vote by year’s end.

“It’s disappointing,” said Jerry Preston, who is helping lead efforts to rename the township of 31,000 people just west of the City of Flint, which has 100,000 residents.

Related: Michigan lawmakers may require schools to test water for lead
Related: Preschool works wonders for Flint water crisis kids. But funding is running out.
Even after Flint, lead-free water lines may be a pipe dream in Michigan
Related: It’s not just Flint: Michigan lead levels up after long decline

The names may be similar, but the communities are plenty different: Flint Township is 77 percent white and about 8 percent of families are impoverished. The City of Flint is nearly 60 percent black and 42 percent of families are poor.

Another difference: Flint Township is on a separate water system and wasn’t affected by the crisis in which lead contaminated water supply of the city, Preston said. Some township businesses complained that confusion is driving away customers, he said.

A name change could clear up other confusion, too.

The supervisor of Flint Township is Karyn Miller –  whom some voters confused with the mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, who had to fight off a recall effort last year and high profile verbal and political battles with state and national politicians over the water crisis.

The township’s renaming committee came up with more than 100 suggested names. The top contender: Carman Hills, in honor of one of the township’s founders, Elijah Carman.

“The people of the township want to have our own ‘esprit de corps,’” Preston said. “It seems like this (legislation) should be a no-brainer.”

The movement hit a hurdle when legal advisers warned township trustees that changing the name without a new law might subject the community to expensive legal battles, Preston said.

So they turned to state Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, who introduced the bills in October.

Currently, state law does not address how any of the 1,240 townships in our state can go about changing their name. Flint Township, which makes up more than 40 percent of my district, brought this issue to me to address this gap in existing law,” Phelps said in an email. “As an elected official, it is my responsibility to listen to the people in my community on the issues that matter to them.”

The bills are now in the House’s Local Government Committee. Its chairman,  Rep. James Lower, R-Cedar Lake, did not respond to requests for comment.

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Dianne Feeley
Wed, 06/06/2018 - 9:50am

Wrap around services is what children need, but particularly important for children who are suffering from trauma! So what if each child costs around $19,000 a year? I understand that Massachusetts schools spend $20,000 per student while Michigan spends less than $8,000. Reparations in Flint must not be dependent on a yearly cycle but guaranteed for the life cycle of those who have been injured by governmental decision.

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 10:55am

Similar to how East Detroit wanted to change its name to Eastpointe to get away from the negative connotations with Detroit.

Paul Jordan
Wed, 06/06/2018 - 10:24pm

And yet, when folks from Flint Township are traveling and want to tell people where they're from, they always say, "I'm from Flint".
And, so often, when schools and other institutions in Genesee County outside of Flint are seeking grant funding, they do not hesitate to use Flint's statistics to try to make their case for funding!

Michael H
Mon, 06/11/2018 - 9:50am

I would assume in order to have a name like "Carman Hills", Flint Township would have to incorporate as a City first. Cases in point: Sterling Township in Macomb County incorporated as the City of Sterling Heights; Avon Township in Oakland County incorporated as the City of Rochester Hills; Pontiac Township in Oakland County incorporated as the City of Auburn Hills; Paris Township in Kent County incorporated as the City of Kentwood; Nankin Township in Wayne County incorporated as the City of Westland. There is no precedence for a Township changing its name to that of what a City would normally change its name to.

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 4:42pm

The committee did not lobby to change the town's name but looked into the feasibility of such an action and made recommendations to the township board. The group consisted of members for, against, and neutral about the idea. The vast majority of the participants recommended the name change. Members also submitted concerns about matters such as the cost. Then, the committee was disbanded. The township board took over, held a public hearing, and considered additional actions. The board put the process on hold because of ambiguity about how to proceed legally.

Sat, 03/14/2020 - 11:30am

the beginning of this article almost literally screams “we don’t want to be associated with those poor black people, it’s making us lose money”. this is pretty sad and unfortunate to read.