Kalamazoo incorporates Foundation for Excellence

Some residents concerned about control of millions provided by private donors

Kalamazoo, Foundation for Excellence
The Aug. 21, 2017 meeting of the Kalamazoo City Commission, during which the bylaws for the Foundation for Excellence were discussed.


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo’s new Foundation for Excellence is one step close to becoming a reality. On Monday, the city commission approved the foundation’s articles of incorporation.

The articles explain how the city will operate the multimillion-dollar endowment fund. Two private donors provided more than $70 million to create the foundation, which each year will provide cash to the city to stabilize its budget, lower property taxes and pay for aspirational community projects aimed at helping low-income and younger residents break generational poverty.

>>PDF: Draft of articles of incorporation

“This is huge for this community, and we’re excited,” Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema told 24 Hour News 8.

Kalamazoo, Foundation for Excellence
Protesters before the Aug. 21, 2017 meeting of the Kalamazoo City Commission, during which the bylaws for the Foundation for Excellence were discussed.

It was a packed house as city commissioners listened to public comment before voting 5-2 to incorporate the Foundation for Excellence.

“I feel this is an opportunity we’d be foolish to walk away from,” one supporter told the commission.

But opponents have asked whether the donors will control how the city’s money is spent, wondering whether the gift comes with strings attached. They’re also concerned about overall transparency of the program.

“If you are able to push this through without my consent, then I would like to stand here today publicly and tell you as a homeowner in the city of Kalamazoo, I would like to refuse any money from the foundation,” a woman against the foundation told the commission.

Even city commission members were torn about whether to incorporate the foundation and accept the money.

“The amount of money you give should not give you the position and power to influence decisions in government,” Commissioner Shannon Sykes said during the commission’s discussion period.

“It’s not that the Foundation for Excellence is going to be controlling the city,” Commissioner Jack Urban countered. “It’s going to be the Foundation for Excellence is going to be supporting the city.”

>>PDF: Draft of bylaws