Royal Oak voters to decide 3 charter proposals

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 25, 2021

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ROYAL OAK — On the Nov. 2 ballot, Royal Oak voters will see three proposals regarding city charter amendments.

The Royal Oak Charter Review Committee — a group of volunteers tasked with reviewing the city charter and making recommendations to the City Commission in order to streamline the charter, make it easier to understand, and bring it in line with state law and best practices — recommended the proposals.

Proposal 1 would amend the city charter to acknowledge Michigan state law, Public Act 116 of 1954, as amended, controls elections in Michigan. The proposal, if adopted, “would add Section 30 of Chapter Four of the City of Royal Oak Charter making it clear the state election laws apply to all elections in the city.”

Rob Moore, chair of the Charter Review Committee, said Chapter Four defines the conduct of elections in the city and, since its inception, has been amended 28 times to better reflect state law and best practices.

“There are currently three sections in Chapter Four that conflict with state law. Generally, if there is a conflict with a state and a local law, state laws override any county or local ordinances,” Moore said. “Rather than continue the practice of amending our charter when state laws change, this proposal would add a section that will make it clear that state election laws apply should a conflict exist.”

He clarified that Chapter Four does not deal with citizen initiatives, referendums or collecting signatures; those items are defined in Chapter Six.

Proposal 2 would amend the city charter to allow the city assessor to designate an alternate to attend meetings of the Board of Review. Section 3 of Chapter Ten (assessment of taxes) currently requires the city assessor to attend Board of Review meetings.

“The city assessor is at every meeting of the Board of Review, assisting the board when needed and conducting every facet of accounting for both county and state requirements,” Moore said. “If necessary, this proposal would allow a senior member of the city assessor’s staff to act on his or her behalf (should the city assessor be absent for whatever reason). This language is meant to bring the charter in line with state law.”

Proposal 3 would eliminate language in Chapter Three of the city charter making the public health department and the position of city health officer a mandatory city department and department head.

“The reality is that such a position has not been filled since the 1970s. The Oakland County Health Department has assisted since 1926 and handles public health issues, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic,” Moore said. “Additionally, the city looks at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide resources.”

During the public comment portion of the Oct. 11 City Commission meeting, several residents expressed doubt with the need to “clean up the charter.”

“On the surface, (Proposal 1) seems innocuous by aligning our Royal Oak election ordinances with state election law, but it’s actually an insidious form of voter suppression,” Royal Oak resident Wallis Andersen said. “I’m voting no on all city-generated proposals, as I really don’t trust your motives.”

Royal Oak resident Janice Wagman said she believed Proposal 1, if approved, could “potentially have other unintended conflicts.”