City of Albion
Origins of Government in Albion
Origins of government in Albion may be found in the Albion Company, founded in 1836 to plat the settlement, sell parcels of land, and to oversee development of the settlement. The Albion Company continued to that operate, then at that time, leader Jesse Crowell purchased a recently built flour mill on Superior Street, and operated that for nearly thirty years until his death.
In 1856 Albion was incorporated as a village, providing the first formal elected government with positions of president, secretary, and treasurer. Many of the same business leaders, property owners, and financiers who were involved in development of the settlement, served brief terms on the village council, overseeing and maintaining order in the village they had helped to create.
Early city councils continued to be dominated by property owners, by those most actively involved in the business and development of the city. Not until 1893 did any member of the city council serve more than four consecutive years. In 1893 one person, Lain Brown, was in his fourth year on council, and was joined by John C. Rousseau, Walter M. Watson and Samuel M. Reed in their third year of service.
Appointed positions from 1885 to 1915 remained simple and relatively and unchanged. Three positions were appointed, City Clerk, City Treasurer, and City Marshal. City Clerk’s and City Treasurer’s had their positions renewed for a series of several years. John Fanning served as treasurer for five years from 1886 to 1890. Such consolidation was not seen again until W.R. Noyes served as City Clerk for 8 years from 1907 to 1914. Longer city council terms began at this time as well with F.C. Stankrauff serving for eight years, corresponding with the same term of City Clerk W.R. Noyes.
This centralization of political power came at a time that industry and business was rapidly centralizing and expanding as well. Gale Manufacturing had located their factory on the west side of town in 1888, followed in 1898 by the Albion Malleable who built their new factory across the river and railroad tracks, north of the Gale plant.
A new city charter was adopted in 1915 and took effect in 1916. The independent clerk and treasurer positions were replaced by a single “City Treasurer and Clerk”, the City Marshal position was eliminated and replaced by Chief of Police, and a new position of City Manager was created. Further, the original eight council positions were reduced to four, to correspond with four districts that were designated.
Norman Weiner, Albion’s “Go-Gettingest” Mayor
Albion’s longest serving mayor, Norman Weiner, started his leadership during the time of Great Depression, helped to secure federal work projects for the city, led construction of the present day City Hall, a band shell at Victory Park, and miles of river wall along the Kalamazoo. His second term from 1949-1954 helped to bring a Corning Glass Works factory Albion, began construction of public housing, and oversaw early efforts to remove blighted and deteriorating housing.
Norman Weiner changed the organization of ward government into council members serving as commissioners. Commissions appointed by the Mayor included Commissioner of Safety, of Finance, of Parks and Cemetery, of Streets, of Health, and Commissioner of Water and Sewer. A Mayor Pro tem served directly under Mayor Norman Weiner to assist in the work of government and to work in Weiner’s place when he was unable to serve.
The commissioner form of government was continued by mayors after Weiner’s death. A complex organization of city staff with Engineer, City Clerk & Treasurer, Police Department, Fire Department, City Attorney, City Assessor, Hospital Administrator, and Librarians also continued.
Since the end of Norman Weiner’s second term, leaders have been forced to adapt to rapid change of the economic and social structure, at first seeking to manage the prosperity and boom in tax revenue that the Corning factory helped to create, then after Corning’s closing to react to decline in employment, tax revenue, and population.
Industrial Decline and Economic Development
Gale Manufacturing closed in 1968. This corresponded with growing racial tensions in the city. Black and white students clashed at the public schools on several occasions and isolated racial conflict occurred throughout the city in the 1960s.
This tension, rooted in frustration over diminishing economic opportunity, required the city to shift its activity from advocating programs supporting growth and development, and instead to find ways to operate with diminishing resources while attempting to stimulate economic development.
State enabling legislation allowed economic development authorities to be created, including the Economic Development Corporation and Downtown Development Authority. These agencies were assisted by Tax Increment Financing Authority that allowed them to capture an increment of tax revenue in a given district, created by investments that they made.
Strategies for economic development represented a shift in control of business and industry from the private sector to a form of public-private development that is common today.
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