Royal Oak voters strike down both millage proposals

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published November 7, 2018

 Royal Oak voters rejected a sidewalk millage proposal Nov. 6

Royal Oak voters rejected a sidewalk millage proposal Nov. 6

File photo by Sarah Wojcik

ROYAL OAK — With all 24 of Royal Oak’s precincts reporting, unofficial election results revealed that the majority of voters rejected two millage proposals on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The public transit system millage was defeated 64.53 percent to 35.47 percent  — 20,094 votes to 11,045 votes — and the sidewalk millage was defeated 64.11 percent to 35.89 percent — 20,242 votes to 11,330 votes.

The public transit system proposal involved a millage of up to 1.25 mills for up to five years for the creation and operation of the system. The sidewalk millage would have collected up to 0.75 mills for up to six years to defray the cost of the city’s sidewalk replacement program.

The Royal Oak Transit Task Force, led by former state Rep. and former City Commissioner Marie Donigan, outlined a public transit system that would run in conjunction with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation.

The system was billed as a “high-frequency fixed-route public transit system” that would operate on weekdays, nights and weekends, and would cover the city. It would have added a Crooks/Coolidge loop and a 13 Mile/Rochester/Campbell/11 Mile loop, as well as expand the existing SMART 430 Main Street route.

The plan also would have doubled funding for the curb-to-curb transportation for seniors and people with disabilities and would have increased daily service hours.

SMART had agreed to purchase 14 buses as part of the proposal.

Donigan said she was disappointed that the millage failed.

“We were looking at ways to improve transportation in Royal Oak, and we knew we needed to improve senior transportation and provide better options for everyone,” she said. “I don’t know exactly why it didn’t pass, but regardless of what happened, we still need better public transportation.”

She said the Royal Oak Transit Task Force would come to an end, but that she hoped the city and its residents could come together to address transportation needs.

“I don’t know how. I don’t know what method,” Donigan said. “The main message is, no matter what happened, we still need better transportation.”

With the failure of the sidewalk millage, the city of Royal Oak will return to its model of funding its sidewalk program through a six-year special assessment system, putting property owners on the hook for replacing slabs deemed deficient by city inspectors.

A group called Royal Oakers 4 Accountability & Responsibility was formed to counter the two proposals on the ballot.

Those opposed to the public transit millage said that they were wary of the “vague” way the proposal language read and were concerned that it would essentially be a “check for the City Commission to use as it saw fit,” according to spokesperson Janice Wagman.

The group also was critical of the sidewalk millage. Wagman questioned if the city was asking too much for the millage, and several residents who paid large sums for sidewalk replacements expressed frustration about potentially being taxed again for the same service.

Wagman said she was relieved that both millage proposals failed. She said she felt the residents sent “a pretty clear message,” given that, in both cases, voters defeated the proposals by an almost 2-1 margin.

“This isn’t the end of our group. We’re going to continue to do whatever we can to educate everyone on the issues going on around town, and we look forward to next year’s election,” she said.

Wagman said the group felt many of the city’s commissioners do not share their same views and, for her personally, she wants the city to focus more on the needs of senior citizens.

Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier did not return a request for comment by press time.