HP voters asked to change the way petitions work

Proposal 2 seeks to increase minimum number of signatures to get issues on ballot

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 1, 2016

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HAZEL PARK — The city of Hazel Park has a petition problem, officials say.

Currently, it takes very little to get an issue on the ballot — only 15 percent of the votes received by the mayor. Now a proposal seeks to increase the signature requirement for initiative and referendum petitions so that issues on the ballot better reflect the will of the people.

The ballot language for Proposal 2, up for vote on Nov. 8, reads as follows:

“Shall the Hazel Park City Charter, Section 5.8 be amended to require initiatory or referendary petitions be signed by at least 5 percent (5%) of the qualified and registered electors of the city?”

To put this in perspective, say the mayor ran unopposed, as is often the case. Say also that the mayor ran during a non-presidential election, where Hazel Park historically has very low turnout. Chances are, the mayor received a very small number of votes — and only 15 percent of that number is what’s currently required to get an issue on the ballot.

This concerns officials because the ballot issues could reflect the interests of outsiders with no real stake in the community — outsiders who use Hazel Park as a testbed for agenda-driven items that may not reflect the will of the people, or that may simply be impractical.

During a public meeting at the Hazel Park District Library Oct. 25, City Manager Ed Klobucher recalled a situation where a group from outside the city tried to petition for body cameras on police.

“I think their intentions were noble, but the way it was written, it was one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve ever seen,” Klobucher said. “It had no funding source to it, and if adopted, it would’ve forced us into possible litigation since there was no way it could’ve been implemented. So we as a community should know before we vote on something that there’s at least a significant number of residents supporting it.”

City Councilman Andy LeCureaux said changing the requirement to 5 percent of registered voters will more accurately sample community support for ballot issues.

“This way, you’re getting a broader voice, rather than getting a super-minority dictating the outcome of certain issues,” LeCureaux said after the meeting. “Right now, you could have just a few hundred people vote and something gets onto the ballot.”

City Councilman Michael Webb agreed it’s a concern.

“We want to raise the bar: If you have a prop that sounds good, we want more than just a few people to see and hear it before signing off and going on the ballot,” Webb said in an interview prior to the meeting. “With this change, it will better reflect how the city feels.”