Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence holds first meeting


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence has hit the ground running.

The foundation’s board held its first meeting Friday morning, less than a week after Kalamazoo’s city commission approved the multi-million dollar endowment fund.

City leaders say this is a big deal for Kalamazoo. Two private donors are giving more than $70 million to the city to stabilize its budget, lower property taxes and pay for community projects aimed at helping low-income and younger residents break generational poverty.

The Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence was no longer just an idea on paper when Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell called the board meeting to order.

Hopewell and City Manager Jim Ritsema are the first two board members.  Hopewell says he believes the 15-member board will be established no later than November.

In the meantime, the two-member board had to take care of some procedural matters Friday, like approving the foundation’s bylaws, adopting a meeting schedule, approving an IRS filing and authorizing the foundation to negotiate with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

The meeting lasted 13 minutes; its importance could span generations.

“I just can’t believe we’re here today taking these actions, even though they seem a little perfunctory, but this is the beginning of a great journey,” Ritsema said.

Hopewell agreed on the meeting’s importance.

“This is humongous,” said Hopewell. “And I think it can be scary. And we’re going to have debates about investing in our community compared to the debates we’ve had over the years about, ‘What are we going to cut now?’”

Friday’s meeting was different from the city commission meeting. It was a packed and contentious house Monday night as opponents voiced concerns about whether donors will control how the city’s money is spent and the overall transparency of the program.

City commissioners voted 5-2 to incorporate the foundation.

Except for the media and a few elected officials and city workers, nobody from the public was at Friday’s meeting.

“We often talk about the glass being half full or half empty,” said Hopewell. “What this creates is the opportunity to refill the glass.”

Hopewell said the foundation board must meet again in September or October. That meeting date hasn’t been scheduled.

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