Citizens group forms to promote Proposal A

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published October 12, 2016


ROYAL OAK — Oakland County Commissioner and resident Dave Woodward gathered Proposal A supporters late last month to kick off an informational campaign supporting the public safety renewal millage.

Woodward formed the committee, Keep Royal Oak Safe, with the help of residents and local first responders. The group gathered Sept. 26 in front of the Royal Oak fire station on Sixth Street.

“It is so important because it is about keeping Royal Oak safe,” Woodward said. “We have the staffing level necessary and the equipment necessary to keep Royal Oak safe.”

Woodward said that as someone who was born and raised in the city where he now lives as a father, this vote is important.

“I saw as funding dried up that we saw our personnel numbers drop, and this proposal, which was passed four years ago, was able to re-up those staffing levels to make certain that in case of an emergency the men and women in blue and red are able to respond and take care of not only my family, but all the families in Royal Oak,” he said.

Woodward said that when they started the group, they had 100 members.

On Nov. 8, voters will be asked whether or not to support Proposal A, which would amend the city charter to allow for a police, fire and emergency medical service millage renewal.

If approved, it would allow the city to renew the millage levy of up to 3.975 mills for a period not to exceed five years to defray the costs for police, fire and emergency medical services beginning Dec. 1, 2017.

City officials said a person living in a home with a taxable value of about $78,000 would pay about $304 annually. City officials said residents can see exactly how much it has cost them by looking at their December 2015 tax bill on the line labeled “Public Safety.”

According to ballot language, the money generated would defray the “general expenses and liabilities of the City for police, fire and emergency medical services only and will allow Royal Oak to maintain core services and staffing levels.”

Woodward said it is important to note that the proposal is at the end of an already long ballot, so residents must flip their ballots over to vote on Proposal A.

The initial public safety millage was approved in 2012 and supported by more than two-thirds of the vote.

City officials said the money was used to pay officer salaries to bring the department up to its goal of 79 officers from a low point of 66.

Before 2012, the Police Department operated with more than 100 officers. The millage also was used to maintain fire staffing at 56.

Royal Oak Police Officer Ryan Spangler said the millage is needed.

“If we were to lose manpower, it would be go, go, go for eight hours,” he said. “I think it would be hard for the department to be proactive. If the staffing levels were down, we would be more reactive, just responding to crimes.”

Officer Dominick Catanese said that if the numbers go down, then the crime would go up.

“The numbers we are at right now, we’re keeping residents safe and we’d like to continue to do that,” he said.

City officials said the money collected also would be used to maintain trained and certified paramedics in the city, two ambulances and three fire stations.

Resident Tara Makar said that, as a mom, keeping Royal Oak a safe community is very important.

“And since the passage of the Royal Oak public safety millage, our crime is down and Royal Oak is ranked one of the 100 safest cities in America, and that is because our police and Fire Department has the staffing it needs to keep us safe,” she said.

Royal Oak resident Mona Bowen said she also supports the millage.

“We need to make sure they are paid well and their families are feeling good when they go to work, that they have the best abilities to come home safely,” she said.

Bowen said that as a senior citizen, she also wants to make sure that if she has a medical emergency, responders will be able to come quickly and have the right equipment.

“I think Royal Oak is a wonderful community to live in, and part of that is because our Police and Fire departments keep us safe,” she said.
The current millage expires in 2017.

“This is a renewal at the end of the previous one,” Woodward said. “This gives an opportunity for the largest number of voices to be heard, and this millage renewal will kick in after the previous one expires.”

A “yes” vote on the millage would not permit the city to collect double taxes for 2017, but rather the renewal would be effective once the original public safety millage expires.

“These are the people that are the first people to respond when some of the worst things happen in your life — when your house is on fire, when your baby is choking,” said resident Susan Bannan.

Bowen said first responders made sure her house was OK when her carbon monoxide alarm went off in the middle of the night.

“We have police officers whose children go to school with my kids, and so they are part of the community as well,” she said.

There is no known organized opposition against Proposal A.

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