City officials discuss Nov. 3 ballot proposals

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published October 28, 2015

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SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — On Nov. 3, voters in Southfield will be asked whether they approve of amending the city’s charter to eliminate city primary elections. In Lathrup Village, voters will be asked if they want to impose term limits on the members of City Council. 

Southfield City Clerk Nancy Banks said there has been a multitude of misinformation regarding the proposed amendment, which could possibly eliminate primary elections for the city. 

According to a fact sheet about the proposal on the city’s website, Southfield’s city charter currently states that primary elections for elected officials are required when the number of candidates for nomination to any office exceeds twice the number to be elected to that office. 

In the primary Aug. 4, Southfield voters were asked to narrow 11 candidates down to eight to move forward to the general election for City Council. 

If approved, the proposal would eliminate primary elections in the city, and everyone would be elected at the general election. 

Banks said that at a League of Women Voters candidate forum Oct. 14 at the Southfield Public Library, a mysterious flier appeared on a table at the forum asking residents to vote no on the proposal. 

Under a black-and-white photo of what appears to be former President Lyndon B. Johnson surrounded by men in suits, the flier says “Voting Is a Right and it should be exercise (sic) OFTEN,” in addition to claims that the proposal is taking away Americans’ right to vote, and that if it weren’t for a primary election in 2008, Obama would have never become president. 

Banks said she is hoping to dispel the rumors surrounding the charter amendment. 

“This has nothing to do with the presidential or congressional election. It only has to do with the city election,” Banks said. “They made reference to, we’re violating people’s rights to this proposal — I’m not sure how we’re violating people’s rights by giving them the opportunity to get this passed or not.”

In Oakland County, Southfield is one of five communities that still holds primary elections. Farmington Hills and Troy recently did away with city primary elections, she said. 

Banks said the elimination of local primary elections would save the city $76,000 per primary election. 

The May 5 special election, when voters were asked whether they approved a statewide sales tax increase, cost the city around $84,000. Costs for elections add up quickly, Banks said, from paper clips to compensation for poll workers. 

A yes vote to the Southfield proposal means one approves of eliminating primary elections in the city, Banks said, and a no vote means one does not wish to eliminate the city primary elections. 

In Lathrup Village, voters will be asked if they would like to see term limits for elected officials on City Council. 

According to Lathrup Village City Administrator Matt Baumgarten, if the measure is approved, council members could only serve two terms once elected. If they are elected to a two-year seat on council, then they could serve up to four years on council. If they are elected to a four-year seat, then they could serve up to eight years on council. After that, Baumgarten said, the council member would no longer be allowed to serve as an elected city official for the rest of their life.  

“You are literally banned from participating as an elected official in the city of Lathrup Village from that point,” Baumgarten said. 

Currently, Baumgarten said, council members can choose to seek as many terms as they want. Council members are all volunteers and are not paid employees, he said. 

“I think possibly one of the misconceptions is that council members receive a fee for their service — it’s 100 percent a volunteer body and also written directly into the city’s charter,” Baumgarten said. 

A yes vote to the Lathrup Village proposal means one approves of term limits for council members, Baumgarten said, and a no vote means that one wishes to keep council terms as they are. 

Banks said she encourages anybody with questions on the charter amendment or the election itself to pay a visit to the City Clerk’s Office at the Southfield Municipal Complex, 26000 Evergreen Road. 

“In Southfield, we are taking this charter amendment to the vote of the people to let them decide. We’re not disenfranchising anyone. If anyone has any questions, feel free to come to my office to see the present charter. I’d rather the voter to be educated and aware of the decision that is right for them,” Banks said.