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Grosse Pointe Park Likely to File Lawsuit Seeking Reversal of Redrawn Maps

New map that splits the Pointes into two districts combined with state legislation opening schools to non-residents raises ire of Park officials.

officials are on the verge of filing a lawsuit seeking the reversal of the --splitting the Grosse Pointes.

Similar to a lawsuit lodged 20 years ago, if filed it would be fought before the Michigan Supreme Court as it was then. The city won then, and with little expected to come of a council resolution last month opposing the redistricting of District 1 the council is stepping up its efforts to be heard.

Under the new map, the current District 1 includes all five Grosse Pointes, Harper Woods and a small portion of Detroit. That district would be divided into two. The first includes Grosse Pointe Woods, Grosse Pointe Shores, Harper Woods and a significant portion of Detroit. The second includes Grosse Pointe Farms, City of Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Park and a significant portion of Detroit. They are to become effective Jan. 1, 2013.

"This is an outrage that we would be subjected to being broken up. It's pure politics. The negotiating was in, the fix was in. Nobody cared about us," Mayor Palmer Heenan said at Monday's City Council meeting.

Heenan, who was part of the lawsuit from two decades ago, is so incensed by the redrawing of District 1 that he is proposing all five Pointes consolidate and become a part of Macomb County. Because a part of Grosse Pointe Shores straddles Macomb and Wayne counties, the Pointes could leave Wayne County, he said. Heenan is seated on a Pointes-wide consolidation committee that's been studying the issue of the five Pointes becoming one municipality.

"I would give up my seat gladly if we could be unified as one city and go through this activity to try and bring us together as one," the 15-term mayor told the council and audience at Monday's meeting. 

Gov. Rick Snyder has endorsed municipal consolidation and sharing of services across communities as a way to save tax dollars and prevent waste and redundancy. The Pointes already share many services and a school district. 

Councilman Robert Denner called the redistricting "a very serious issue for all the Pointes. I would be in favor of launching an appropriate legal challenge to it. This is a serious dilution of our political voice in a group of communities that share a lot of common interests, do many things together and seem to be at the base of some effort at the state level to drive us part, which I will not tolerate. All of our efforts ought to be to work together.

"This clearly is a detriment to our collective future."

City Manager Dale Krajniak said the next logical step would be to reach out to the other Pointes for support.

Last month the . They included the Pointes' shared school district and city services, its sharing of the lake, lakeshore and more.

Councilman Daniel Clark seconded Heenan's thoughts, and most, if not all, city council members were in favor of arguing the matter in court.

"I would encourage us to seriously consider litigation," Clark said. "I would hope we have partners in our fellow Grosse Pointe communities." He, like Heenan and Denner, said now is the time for the Pointes to band together.

"I'm gravely concerned about what precedent this might set," Clark said of the redistricting.

While the council talked frankly and openly for some time about suing, City Attorney Dennis Levasseur, who argued the case 20 years ago, said exact details should be discussed in a closed session Monday.

In addition to the state House redistricting, the U.S. Congressional District 14 seats that includes the Pointes was also redrawn in such a way that it is now rambles along an oddly bordered patch of map that runs from Southwest Detroit, along the Detroit River, into the Pointes and Harper Woods, up 8 Mile into Oakland County and through Farmington, Farmington Hills and finally Pontiac.

During the open portion of Monday's meeting, Councilman Clark said he sees the state House redistricting as well as school reform legislation to be proposed this week as double damage whammies coming from Lansing to the Pointes. The legislation is expected to require all Michigan school districts to welcome students into their classrooms regardless of whether they live in or out of district.

The school reform legislation, which may be officially proposed as soon as this week in Lansing, came up earlier at Monday's council meeting when the council unanimously passed a resolution opposing opening its school doors to non-residents. 

"We have a very serious threat to our identity," Clark said. "We ought not sit back and acquiesce. We ought to take as vigorous a position as we can."

Mayor Heenan reiterated his stance to combine the Pointes as one city.

"Some people might disagree with me, but people don' t see what we see, that we've really been abandoned. I would hope that the other cities would move a little more quickly on the consolidation effort because that's a way around this problem. It's not a joy to be discussing this, but it's necessary."

The new district would force a state representative to take care of communities with very different needs, he said.

"If we just sit still we're going to be absorbed into a representation that just isn't right for us," Heenan said.

Two residents attending the meeting questioned the rush to consolidate before the litigation is settled.

"It may just be we're blowing at the wind," Heenan said. It doesn't make sense as it is now. This is for all of us to debate and give us your opinion. We don't have any locked-in viewpoints…We're trying to be reasonable."

Anthony J August 23, 2011 at 02:10 PM
If the only way for the Pointe communities to achieve adequate representation (at both the state and federal levels) is consolidation, than it's feasibility should be pursued. It's not too early to have a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of such a move. Good government grows from the bottom up--not the top down. Good neighborhoods create good cities, good cities should create good counties and, ultimately, good states. They are not created by Lansing or Wash. D.C. Bottom up, not top down.
Lisa Pinkos Howle August 23, 2011 at 03:02 PM
"Mayor Heenan reiterated his stance to combine the Pointes as one city." I think this is an idea that we must explore under the present circumstances.
Chris K August 23, 2011 at 07:59 PM
I have thought it was rather obvious that part of this redistricting arrangement WAS to encourage the Grosse Pointes to consolidate. As residents we need to work together to preserve what we have in this community and stop allowing those who do not live here to display their prejudice toward our community by engaging in name calling with terms like "elitists" to describe us. Given our respective cities can't even agree on whether we can have a bike path, we can't expect them to take the lead. So residents let's get involved!
K. Cetlinski August 23, 2011 at 11:27 PM
This situation is so disturbing for the future of the Grosse Pointe areas. The reality is that there is much to be gained by the surrounding communities and much to be lost by the Pointes. We need to voice our opinion and speak up about the effort our community has put forth to make our schools what they are and the pride we have earned in the standards that have been set. We do need to consider the options to work together to see what is best for our community. Consolidation may be a way to preserve our future!

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