While most of the headlines and talk about Tuesday’s (Nov. 8, 2016) election results involved the Presidential race you may missed the fact that there were more than 300 ballot questions facing voters throughout the state.
What’s even more impressive is about 86 percent of the 343 ballot proposals were approved, according to an in-depth look at the ballot questions by MIRS News.
MIRS reported that of the new or increased money asks on the local ballot, 78 percent passed. Requests that were considered renewals passed at a 95 percent clip.
These results are encouraging in that it shows local voters will support – with their wallets – local services they enjoy, expect and want from their local communities.
The League has been saying for years that local communities are economic-drivers for our state.
The League loves where our members live and these results show residents are also willing to invest in places they love and appreciate.
State government leaders often say we need to cut taxes – yet on issues that are important to them, the people of Michigan have shown they are willing to step up to the plate.
This is proof positive that people will pay for what they care about, especially when they can see the value at their local level.
Unfortunately, communities where millage proposals failed may see massive service cuts leading to less quality of place at a time when Michigan is trying to rebound and attract and retain more talent.
The trend of local millage requests is increasing because the state has repeatedly disinvested in its own communities and refuses to help raise revenue and change policy and laws to give local communities more revenue-generating options. This has forced municipalities to pick up the slack by whatever means they can. Our research done through our saveMIcity.org municipal finance reform initiative shows that the state has diverted more than $7.5 billion in revenue sharing dollars from Michigan communities since 2002. Michigan is the only state in the nation to invest less in its communities between 2002 and 2012. (View the chart here).
Our saveMIcity work is an examination of how we can do things differently in Michigan to assure that local government can’t just survive, but can thrive. To that end, the League will be developing policy recommendations around three themes: Cost Containment, Revenue Enhancement, and Structure of Government.
We are taking this approach to break away from the historically limiting tactic of incremental change within the context of where we are today. We need new ideas, innovative approaches, and bold action to create a new future for communities around Michigan.
Is this an issue that you care about and would like to have a discussion about locally? The League will work with you to plan an event in your hometown with community groups, local chambers of commerce, local media, etc. Just contact us and we will provide resources and/or a speaker to help foster the discussion.
Here is an excerpt from the MIRS story with additional details about the election results:
Four of the five transit-related millage proposals passed. Road proposals also did well, with 91 percent of the millage proposals passing.
Schools proposals passed at an 88 percent clip, including eight of 10 bonding proposal results. Public safety-related requests, which included police, fire, emergency services and other similar service asks, passed at a 94 percent rate.
All 13 library millages passed and all six veterans proposals passed. All four proposals for community colleges passed muster.
Five of the seven senior citizens-related proposals were approved, and mosquito control-related proposals went seven-for-seven.
Proposals of all shapes and sizes passed from all corners of the state, including a 2.5 mill, 5-year request for DPW equipment purchases and major upgrading in Laurium, a small village in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula.
The City of Flint had two millage renewals approved – one for police and one for parks.
A $15 million road bonding ask was approved in Franklin in Oakland County and a $10 million, 25-year road question in Owosso also was passed.
Road-funding related questions, including new asks and renewals, also passed in Washtenaw County, Grand Traverse County, Midland County, Iron County, Alma in Gratiot County, Capac in St. Clair County, Clare in Clare County, Durand in Shiawassee County, Hamburg in Livingston County, New Buffalo in Berrien County, Rockwood in Wayne County, Sand Lake in Kent County, Saugatuck in Allegan County and Shelby Township in Macomb County. A 20-year service fee to support 911 dispatch was approved in Kent County.
Questions related to funding for general operations, police, fire, ambulance, and libraries were approved in Belleville, Calumet, the Dexter area, Eastpointe, Grand Ledge, Grosse Pointe Park, Harper Woods, Hartford, the Howell area, Lake Orion, Lansing, Luna Pier, Michiana, Monroe, Morrice, Rogers City, Royal Oak, and Wixom.
Multiple placemaking-related questions were also approved including a parks millages (both new and renewals) in Flint, Sterling Heights and Hancock, renewals for public transit in Clinton County and Eaton County, a renewal for waste and recycling in Marshall, a bike path question in Grosse Ile Township, a youth center in Pontiac, a zoo millage renewal in Ingham County, a millage renewal for senior citizen services in Milford, a bond for parks in Blissfield, and a new millage for snow removal in Grayling.
But it wasn’t all good news. An issue that received a lot of attention was the defeat of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) millage in southeast Michigan. Voters in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw rejected the request for a 1.2 mill-increase to raise money toward creating an integrated regional transportation system in the metro Detroit area. It was unfortunate and disappointing that the RTA millage was rejected.
Southeast Michigan won’t be competitive for new-economy jobs until it figures out how to better move people around throughout the region. The voters said no to the RTA, but transit advocates need to continue to push their message and live to fight another day.
Matt Bach is director of media relations for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (734) 669-6317.