Residents of a small Michigan town who were outraged by the township board’s recent decision to partner with a Chinese firm have filed formal paperwork to recall them.
In December 2020, the Green Charter Township Board members agreed, more than two years before, to a $2 Billion deal with Gotion, Inc., an electric vehicle battery manufacturer in China. Gotion, a company based in Silicon Valley with a parent in China, has promised to bring 2,300 jobs to Mecosta County.
Mecosta County is located in rural Michigan, about an hour’s drive north of Grand Rapids. Nearly 10% of its residents live below poverty level. Some residents were attracted by the prospect that a manufacturing plant would be built in their community, and they could expect to find thousands of well-paying jobs.
However, many were not. Many residents of the area are so upset by the potential partnership with Gotion, that the township board was forced to hold its meeting outside earlier this month because its meeting room couldn’t accommodate everyone. The two main concerns of those who oppose Gotion are the company’s affiliation with China’s Communist Party, and the possible risks the plant could pose to the environment or military integrity.
Many residents are particularly concerned by a clause in the corporate documents of Gotion. One Gotion document stated: “The company must establish a party organization, and conduct party activities according to the Constitution of the Communist Party of China.” The company must ensure that the necessary conditions are in place for party activities.
Gotion’s representatives claim that the hype surrounding this clause is overblown. Has the Communist Party infiltrated this company? Chuck Thelen is vice president of Gotion North American operations. He said that the Communist Party had not penetrated this company. Do we have articles that require a certain paragraph, or do you not conduct business in China? It’s a corporate culture, yes.
Thelen said at a public meeting of information on April 5 that “despite what current politicians may claim,” there is no communist conspiracy within Gotion.
Many residents are still unconvinced. “China is the number one enemy!” One man shouted this at a meeting. Another resident said, “My family fought against communism and now you are bringing it here.”
Others believe the toxic wastes from the plant could harm the environment. Dick Clark, 64 of a nearby township, said, “I do not want our rivers polluted.” “I do not want to pollute our air.” This is a beautiful country. “I don’t want to see it destroyed.” Chris Ward, 49 of Green Charter, said she was concerned about “the effect on the environment, water, and politics.”
Politics appears to have played a major role in the decision to bring Gotion to rural Michigan. Gotion representatives approached Green Charter Trustee Dale Jernstadt, offering to purchase some of his property for the construction of the facility. Jernstadt is not saying whether he accepted the offer. However, he abstained from voting on the Gotion project.
Gotion has also approached other residents about selling their property. Some residents were offered up to three times the market value of their land and given only a few hours before they had to decide to sell. It is not known how many residents have sold their property to Gotion, as they are bound by non-disclosure agreements.
Many opponents of the partnership, in addition to environmental concerns and Chinese land seizures, have noted that Camp Grayling is only 100 miles away from the proposed location for the Gotion plant. This is where Michigan National Guard members train Taiwanese members. They say that this proximity could pose a threat to the United States’ security and the security of its allies.
Residents are angry for a variety of reasons. They may be concerned that a CCP affiliate may purchase significant farmland in the area to build an industrial plant that could harm both community health and environmental safety. They’re so upset that they have begun to recall those who approved the partnership with Gotion.
The paperwork to recall the seven Green Charter members was submitted on Friday by Mecosta County: James Peek (Treasurer), Gary Todd (Clerk), Dale Jernstadt and Roger Carroll, Clerk Janet Clark, Treasurer Denise MacFarlane, and Supervisor James Chapman. The county must meet within the next three week to “approve the accuracy” of the language on the petitions. If the petitions are approved, organizers can begin collecting signatures to force a recall vote.
The dialogue between Green Charter members and residents became increasingly tense in the past few months. In a recent meeting, Supervisor Chapman snapped at a resident who wanted to ask “a quick question”. Trustee Jernstadt called a female resident angry a “b ****”” under his breath. Twitter videos show clips of these exchanges:
Some officials claim that paid agitators are behind the recall campaign. Jerrilynn Strength, chair of the Mecosta County Board of Commissioners claimed that “professional pickupers” were trying derail “a wonderful opportunity for people in Mecosta County, and the surrounding areas.”
A resident apologized for the comments made by his neighbors. Dominic Pace said, “I’ll take my minute to apologize for the negative comments made by your neighbors. I am sorry you have to sit here tonight to have your integrity questioned and called names.” “… “…