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Ballot proposal to determine future of Berkley city logo

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published August 19, 2015

 Berkley residents will vote in November on a charter amendment affecting the city’s logo and flag, which have been in place for 54 years.

Berkley residents will vote in November on a charter amendment affecting the city’s logo and flag, which have been in place for 54 years.

Photos by Joshua Gordon

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BERKLEY — In June, the city of Berkley entered into an agreement with Lansing-based MessageMakers to conduct a study of the city’s logo and to work with residents to come up with a design for a new logo.

Now, a group of residents is hoping to stop the city’s attempt to replace the more than 50-year-old logo with a ballot proposal set for the November election.

On July 28, resident and former Mayor Maybelle Fraser submitted a petition with nearly 740 signatures to allow the residents to vote on whether or not the old logo should be replaced. The item is a proposed charter amendment that reads, “Shall the City of Berkley, Michigan, retain its originally approved city flag established in 1961 and subsequent city logo and seal unless approved by the voters of Berkley?”

“As one person put it to me, the logo is as relevant today as it was 54 years ago,” Fraser said. “This was something the veterans brought about, and if it was good enough for them, it is good enough for me. It symbolizes our city and where we live and how we feel. What we believe is all in one logo.”

The city went out for bid earlier this year and agreed to pay MessageMakers $24,000 from the general fund to conduct the branding study, which would include a new tagline. As part of the study, two focus group sessions were scheduled to be held, one of which has happened and the other of which is planned for later this year.

Fraser said she feels that because city officials already paid $24,000 to a marketing firm, they are already set on changing the logo even before public input.

“They only did a survey after they voted to spend the money to have the study done,” she said. “You don’t allocate money unless you have already decided you are going to do it. I think it would have been nice for them to have spoke with residents before voting to spend the money.”

Gary Ostendorf, a Berkley Schools student at the time, designed the current logo in 1961 as part of a contest led by local veterans affiliated with the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Ostendorf’s design was selected and put on a flag and later adopted by the city.

The logo includes four quadrants that include a place of worship, a family, a book and the Liberty Bell. The logo is outlined by oak leaves, representing Oakland County.

City Manager Jane Bais-DiSessa said she would have preferred that residents participated in the study first and then crossed the bridge of a public vote should the recommendation be to change the logo.

“I’m personally disappointed, and I wish they could have been part of the process,” she said. “It is a tough issue and not as simple a process as some people may think. It isn’t just a contest to create a new logo, but a study that looks at building something that considers the city’s strengths and current identity and what people think about the community right now.

“We want to create a sense of place — something emotional.”

A public survey that is on the city’s website about the branding study currently has more than 400 responses, Bais-DiSessa said, and she has received a few calls from residents concerned about the study.

As part of the petition, Fraser had to collect signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters in Berkley, or 619 signatures. Fraser said she heard from residents that the current logo represents what brought them to Berkley in the first place.

“We are not like other cities, and we don’t have a huge downtown and very little industry,” Fraser said. “We are a bedroom community and the type of town young people want to live in. For Gary, when he designed the logo, it represented the quality of life he thought of when he grew up in Berkley.”

Bais-DiSessa said the branding study is being done in hopes of continuing to lure new families and businesses to Berkley. She wants a potentially new logo to be instantly recognizable to people all over metro Detroit as being Berkley.

“We have to compete out there in today’s world with our neighbors, and we have to make sure however we represent ourselves continues to bring in new businesses and increases property values,” she said. “How we project to others is important. We want something that represents today’s generation, but also other generations to come.”

No matter how the vote may go, Fraser said she just wants residents to have a say in how their city is represented.

“This just gives people the chance to vote,” she said. “If they say they want something new, maybe that is not what I want, but I can live with that because that is what the people want.”

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