Tax opponents present forum

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 19, 2011


More than 100 people attended a panel discussion presented by Troy Citizens United, a group that has opposed tax increases, at the Troy Community Center April 14.

Residents said they learned about the meeting online and from recorded phone messages.

TCU presented information that elicited cheers at times — and sparked discussion between attendees at other times.

In an email message to the Troy Times, TCU described the event as a town hall meeting, and stated that the presentation would give the group’s view on municipal finance and the library, which is slated to close.

“This is a presentation, not a debate,” Deborah DeBacker told the audience.

Former Troy Councilman David Eisenbacher said the financial software the city uses for reports and the budget is not doing the job it could. He said it should be clear from these reports exactly what the city’s financial state is. He noted that the city of Novi posts a check register online listing the bills the city pays, and he said Troy could do the same.

“Demand transparency,” he said.

Janice Daniels said the city needs “a new leadership, not a mill increase and not a closed library.”

Jack Witt presented a listing of salaries and fringe benefits for city staff members, and noted that only 1 person in six across the country has retiree medical benefits.

Ed Kempen, who spearheaded a petition drive last year to fund the library with the current budget, criticized a judge’s opinion that the petition was not valid, and the city asking the judge for clarification on the matter.

Last February, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris ruled that the ordinance proposed in the petition would “impair the efficient administration of the municipality and therefore concludes it is not legislative.”

Kempen has since brought forward a new petition that states: “In order to assure affordable access to quality local library service, and to honor the spirit of Section 2.2 (W) of this charter, the City of Troy shall dedicate funds from its general operating fund sufficient to operate and maintain a public library open to the public for not less than 55 hours each week.”

Oakland County Commissioner Robert Gosselin, R- Troy, said the city manager needs four votes to move forward on issues, and if the votes on the budget “switched,” the city manager would find the money to fund the library.

He described a recent citizen survey as a push poll, akin to political telemarketing.

“The term ‘push poll’ is a highly inflammatory one in the research world, and to assert that the city would hire a firm to conduct such a poll is preposterous,” said Irv Wengrow, a spokesman for Troy Residents Unified for a Strong Troy. “It is shameful the TCU would seek to taint the response of residents who receive a survey call by making such incendiary and false statements.”

Witt said the closure of the library is a “political situation.”

“A small majority has to prove they were right,” he said, referring to the 4-3 City Council vote in which Mayor Louise Schilling, Mayor Pro Tem Mary Kerwin, and Council members Dane Slater and Maureen McGinnis approved a city budget that did not include funding for operations of the library in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Although resident Duane Lamers said he challenges the inclusion of “questionable” TV programs in the library’s DVD collection and the large number of computers in the library, he said he decided to circulate Kempen’s latest petition after attending TCU’s presentation. Lamers said he is not a member of TCU.

“I came to hear what they had to say,” resident Sheila Addison said. She is not a member of TCU, and added that she will also listen to the City Council’s point of view on the information TCU presented.