Proposals 1 and 2 pass in Hazel Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 11, 2016

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HAZEL PARK — Voters supported two proposals for the city of Hazel Park during the general election Nov. 8, approving staggered four-year terms for mayor and council and an increase in the petition signatures required for an item to make the ballot.

Proposal 1 and Proposal 2 both passed by overwhelming majorities: Proposal 1 at 68.57 percent (3,644 votes) to 31.43 percent (1,670 votes), and Proposal 2 at 64.56 percent (3,246 votes) to 35.44 percent (1,782 votes).

“Both proposals passed by a healthy margin,” said Hazel Park City Manager Ed Klobucher. “I’m very pleased the voters in Hazel Park trusted their elected and appointed leadership and approved these two changes. Staggered terms will provide experience and stability, and changing the number of signatures will ensure that a sufficient number of Hazel Park residents actually support an issue before it’s placed on the ballot.”

Proposal 1 achieves staggered terms by amending the city charter so that the mayor and two council members will be up for a four-year term starting with a transitional election in November 2017, while the other two members will be up for a two-year term. Then in 2019, two members will be up for re-election for four years, and in 2021, the mayor and other two members will be up for four years. And so it will continue.

The point of Proposal 1 is to avoid a situation where all of City Council is replaced at once and there are no veteran members among them to help bring the new members up to speed on government processes. As for the shift from two-year terms to four-year terms, council members will now be able to focus more on the issues since they’ll have more time before the next election. 

Proposal 2, meanwhile, amends the city charter to require that initiatory or referendary petitions be signed by at least 5 percent of residents. Currently, it takes very little to get an issue on the ballot — only 15 percent of the votes received by the mayor. This number can be very small if the mayor ran unopposed and/or in a non-presidential year when turnout is historically low.

Proposal 2’s aim is to prevent outsiders from using Hazel Park as a test bed for agenda-driven items that may not reflect the will of the people, or that may simply be impractical. This recently occurred when a group from outside the city petitioned the city for body cameras on police — something that City Manager Ed Klobucher said the city doesn’t oppose, but that wouldn’t work the way it was proposed since there was no funding source for it, among other issues.

“I am very happy,” said City Councilman Andy LeCureaux. “The charter needed to be updated, especially the length of terms. It’s an updating, a renovating of the charter. We had been the only one left in the area doing terms this way. As for the other ballot issue, about the signatures, it’s just bringing things more in line with what other cities do, and it’s protecting us so we can’t be taken advantage of by groups that may want to do some nutty things. Having more signatures will make for a more representative sample of the community.”