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City Blog

Mar 10

2020 Census: City neighborhoods story

Posted on March 10, 2020 at 4:43 PM by Jessica VanderKolk

The City of Battle Creek is an entitlement community and, in this case, it’s good to be entitled.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development started this grant program in the 1970s, and that is when we first met the designation requirements.

What this means is that Battle Creek automatically receives a share of grant funds that help us do important work related to community needs, largely around housing.

Our eligibility for this program hangs on the fact that we have a population of at least 50,000. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Battle Creek’s 2018 population at 51,247. This is a story to demonstrate why it is critically important that we remain above 50,000. To get that on record, we need every household to complete the 2020 Census this spring!

BC Counts logo final

The census count happens every 10 years, and is essentially a head count of every person living in the United States. The Census Bureau uses this data to compile statistics about our population that inform government programs and their funding – including the HUD entitlement grants.

Battle Creek benefits from a number of these grants, determined by a formula:

  • Community Development Block Grant
  • HOME Investment Partnership
  • Emergency Solutions Grant
  • Public Housing Authority funds

Entitlement also makes us eligible to apply for other, competitive, grants through HUD and the State of Michigan. We have received:

  • $1.8 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 1
  • $12.8 million for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2
  • $350,000 Hardest Hit Fund Housing grants
  • $7.5 million Lead Hazard Control grants

The work we do with these funds benefits low- and moderate-income neighbors in Battle Creek. We do work to revitalize neighborhoods, improve economic development, and improve public infrastructure and services.

We do a range of activities to promote those goals, like inspecting and registering thousands of rental units in low-income areas, which helps ensure the properties are safe and liveable. We have rehabilitated hundreds of low-income senior citizens’ homes, and we run a Minor Home Repair Program for low-income homeowners who cannot otherwise afford repairs required to meet housing code standards. That program helps up to 50 households per year with health and safety, accessibility, and roofing projects.

Home before rehabilitation
Home after rehabilitation

We also have demolished vacant and blighted buildings around the city, and have purchased foreclosed homes and rehabilitated them to sell to low- and moderate-income families, thereby helping restore the market vitality in our core historic neighborhoods.

We are a responsive city government, working hard to understand our challenges and work on our strengths. These federal resources help us achieve a healthy and thriving community. If every person in our city is counted in the 2020 Census, this will help Battle Creek keep our entitlement status, and ensure that we can keep our momentum on efforts to revitalize our neighborhoods, making them strong, safe, and attractive places to live.


Mar 05

2020 Census: City Transit story

Posted on March 5, 2020 at 11:11 AM by Jessica VanderKolk


Our Battle Creek Transit system provides public transportation to the community with fixed-route buses, the ADA and advance-scheduled Tele-Transit, and the on-demand weekend BCGo.

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Our transit system is classified as “small urban,” since we have a population of 50,000-199,999. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Battle Creek’s 2018 population at 51,247. This is a story to demonstrate why it is critically important that we remain above 50,000. To get that on record, we need every household to complete the 2020 Census this spring!

The census count happens every 10 years, and is essentially a head count of every person living in the United States. The Census Bureau uses this data to compile statistics about our population that inform government programs and their funding – including funding to operate community public transportation.

Our status as a “small urban” system places us in a Federal Transit Administration formula allocating us about $1.4 million that we use for operating expenses – staff and the services we mentioned above. This helps with our $4 million operating budget.

As part of this current distribution, we also receive a state reimbursement of 39 cents per dollar we spend on operations.

If our population drops below 50,000, we become a “rural” transit system. We no longer would receive federal funds directly, but would become one of at least 83 agencies across Michigan to share a pot of about $24 million.  We estimate this would provide us with $740,000 for operations – half of what we currently receive.

Because we would have to spend less on operations under that scenario, we would receive less state reimbursement, a double hit to our already-tight Transit budget. You may know that this year we are recommending to the City Commission the first bus fare increase in 17 years – moving from $1.25 per ride to $1.75. We don’t want to burden our riders, especially those who have limited income; we believe this increase will better keep our community riding, than if we were to cut service.

That being said, a drop in population – or undercount on the 2020 Census – that gives us “rural” status, could potentially mean cutting Tele-Transit to service only those passengers who are ADA-eligible – a small percentage of the current list of passengers who use this service for work, medical appointments, and much more.

If that did not cover the funding cut, we would look at cutting service hours, probably starting our services later in the morning, and ending them earlier in the evening. Right now, buses run weekdays 5:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., and Tele-Transit runs 5:15 a.m. to midnight. They also have Saturday hours, and BCGo covers additional weekend hours.

Especially since our community lost taxi service last year, we know how critically important it is to continue providing – and improving – our Battle Creek Transit services. Please help us in that effort by completing the brief – just nine questions – Census survey this spring.

BC Counts logo final


Battle Creek Counts, and we are counting on you to help us stay 50K strong.

Tag(s): census, 2020 census

Feb 11

City proposals on primary election ballot

Posted on February 11, 2020 at 10:35 AM by Jessica VanderKolk

It is a big year in 2020 for elections -- voters in the City of Battle Creek will choose the president, many state positions, county positions and issues, city commissioners, and two city proposals.

Neighbors may remember that, in 2018 the City Commission appointed a Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee to discuss our city charter, and consider making recommendations for changes, such as the mayor is selected, and the language used in the city charter.

Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee logo 2018

Commissioners took this action because, in 2014, that commission was deadlocked for nearly four hours in an attempt to choose a mayor. Currently, commissioners vote among themselves to choose the mayor and vice mayor each year at the November organizational meeting.

The BRAC's work, which included their own meetings, discussions with neighbors, analysis of information provided by the city attorney, and analysis of feedback provided by over 1,300 neighbors via a survey. As a result, Battle Creek registered voters will see two related proposals on the March 10 primary election ballot.

The first will ask voters if we should remove all gendered language from the city charter -- meaning we will use pronouns like "they" and "them" instead of "he" and "him." The commission believes this is the right thing to do in this modern and accepting time, to show better inclusivity in our language.

The second proposal will ask voters if they want to elect the mayor as a separate office. Selection of the vice mayor would remain at the commission's organizational meeting.

If voters approve the direct-elect mayor proposal on March 10, voters in the Nov. 3 general election will elect five ward and three at-large commissioners, plus one mayor. This keeps our total at nine commissioners. 

Data from the city attorney
  • In the 49 Michigan cities with a population between 15,000 and 100,000, only seven of those cities' mayors are selected by the commission/council.
  • The mayors of the other 42 cities is selected by voters as a separate office, or as the top at-large vote-getter. 
  • 35 of the 49 total cities have city manager-council governments (like Battle Creek), and in 28 of those voters select the mayor as a separate office, or as the top at-large vote-getter.
Some history:
  • 1913 -- According to the charter, also acted as the executive head of the organization.
  • 1960 -- The commission approved charter revisions that put the current process in place. Before then, Battle Creek voters directly elected the mayor, who served a two-year term.
  • 1969 -- A Citizens for Charter Amendment group circulated petitions for proposals that included direct election for mayor and vice mayor, but they were invalidated in court because of improper language.
  • 1969 -- Voters rejected a city commission proposals for mayor being the candidate with the highest number of votes in even-year elections.
  • 1980 -- Voters rejected a proposal in which the mayor would be the at-large candidate with the most votes.
  • 1984 -- A charter review committee suggested the mayor be selected based on being the at-large candidate with the most votes, but no action was ever taken on this recommendation. A review committee suggested a separate ballot for mayor, but the city commission never considered this.
  • 1993 -- The city commission tabled a proposal by one commissioner to give voters two votes on a separate ballot, with the top vote-getter becoming mayor, and the second becoming vice mayor.
  • 2004 -- A blue ribbon committee formed to discuss the mayor's selection, but its ultimate recommendation was to not change the current charter. 
  • 2005 -- Despite the 2004 recommendation, a commissioner initiated a resolution proposing a charter amendment for the direct election of the mayor -- essentially the same proposal voters will see this year. However, the 2005 proposal did not receive the required 3/5 commission vote to get on the ballot.
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Especially because you can now vote absentee for no specific reason, we hope all eligible Battle Creek neighbors will vote on March 10, and in all of the 2020 elections. You can find more information here on our website, at battlecreekmi.gov/elections