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.
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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.