Detroit residents are going to need to budget some time when they vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, and be sure to do your homework.
There’s more to this year’s ballot than the presidential ticket-a lot more, according to City Clerk Janice M. Winfrey. “In the City of Detroit we’ll have 18 proposals. It’s very unusual,” Winfrey says. “For the first time ever we’ll have to have two ballots.”
Voters will take two sheets of paper into the ballot booths, both double-sided. The first ballot contains all elected officials. The second ballot is comprised of the 18 proposals: six statewide, six countywide and six for the city itself.
Winfrey says turnout is expected to be relatively high since it’s a presidential election, so Detroit is taking several measures to avoid long lines at the polls.
Sample ballots are being provided to all institutions of higher learning, so professors of English, political science and other related classes can use them as teaching tools. Voters are invited to pick up sample ballots in advance at the Department of Elections, and sample ballots will also be mailed, as usual, to all city residents two weeks before voting day.
Winfrey is urging voters to review the ballots before walking into the polls, and is asking everyone who’s eligible to vote absentee so they can study the ballots at their leisure. The way the proposals are worded can be confusing and overwhelming, so it pays to preview the issues.
“We want them to have ample time and be very familiar with voting that ballot,” Winfrey says.
Here’s a brief snapshot of the 18 ballot proposals, which all require “yes” or “no” votes:
Wayne County Community College District Millage Proposal: Shall WCCC raise the millage rate of all taxable property in the college district by 1 mill ($1 per $1,000 of taxable value) for 10 years? It is estimated the millage would raise about $21.7 million in its first year to help the college educate local students.
DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS DISTRICT
Proposal S: Should the school district be allowed to renew 18 mills for general operating purposes on non-homestead property (mainly industrial and commercial property and rental property) for 10 years? (Owner occupied homes are exempt from this levy under existing law.) The millage, $18 per $1,000 of taxable value, would raise an estimated $80.9 million for the school district in its first year.
12-1: Should the state establish criteria to assess the financial condition of local government units, including school districts, and authorize the governor to appoint an emergency manager to act in place of local government officials?
12-2: Should the state constitution be changed to grant public and private employees the constitutional right to organize and bargain collectively through labor unions, and invalidate existing or future state or local laws that limit this ability?
12-3: Should the state constitution be amended to establish a standard for renewable energy, requiring electric utilities to provide at least 25 percent of their annual retail sales through wind, solar, biomass and/or hydrofuel by 2025? In meeting that goal, should it also limit rate hikes to consumers to just 1 percent per year, and require the legislature to enact additional laws to encourage the use of Michigan-made equipment and employment of state residents?
12-4: Should the state constitution be amended to establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council and provide collective bargaining for in-home care workers? Should the state require the MQHCC to provide training for in-home care workers, create a registry of workers who pass background checks, and provide financial services to patients to manage the cost of in-home care? Should it also preserve patients’ rights to hire in-home care workers who are not referred from the MQHCC registry, and set minimum compensation standards and terms and conditions of employment?
12-5: Should the state constitution be amended to limit the enactment of new taxes by state government? Should the state require a ⅔ majority vote of the house and senate or a statewide vote of the people at a November election in order for State of Michigan to impose new or additional taxes?
12-6: Should the state constitution be amended to require approval of a majority of voters in the state and in each municipality where new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles are to be located before the state may spend money or resources acquiring land, soliciting bids, designing, constructing, financing or promoting them?
Form of the Wayne County Budget and Appropriation Ordinance: Should the Wayne County Home Rule Charter be amended to authorize the Wayne County Commission, rather than the Wayne County Executive, to establish the form of the county budget and appropriation? Should the county commission adopt changes to the form at least 10 months before the beginning of each fiscal year? Should the county executive be required to prepare and submit the budget and appropriation ordinance in the form established by the county commission?
Independent External Auditor: Should the county charter be amended to remove a restriction that prohibits an independent external auditor from providing audit services to the county for more than eight consecutive years? Should it require independent auditors to be selected based on a competitive process in accordance with the county’s procurement ordinance?
Membership on the Wayne County Retirement Commission: Should the county charter be amended to expand Wayne County Retirement Commission (WCRC) membership from 8 to 9, adding the Wayne County Treasurer or his or her designee? And to authorize the chairperson of the Wayne County Commission, who is also a member of the WCRC, to appoint a person to serve as his or her designee? And to further allow employees and retirees of the Wayne County Airport Authority to vote for and serve as members of the retirement commission until the airport authority establishes its own retirement system or pension plan?
Removal of the Wayne County Executive from Office by the Governor: Should the county charter be amended to authorize the governor to remove the Wayne County Executive from office for the same reasons and with the same due process as provided by law for the sheriff, prosecuting attorney, clerk, register of deeds and treasurer?
The Wayne County Commission’s Power to Approve Compensation: Shall the charter be amended to give power and duty to the Wayne County Commission to approve all compensation of all county employees unless compensation is established by state or federal law?
CITY OF DETROIT
Proposal C: Shall the city charter, which provides that corporation counsel shall prosecute all actions or proceedings involving the city when directed to do so by the mayor, be amended to allow the corporation counsel to take judicial action on his or her own initiative, to require city officials and employees to comply with the charter?
Proposal E: Shall the city charter be amended to provide for a fixed minimum and maximum number of signatures required for nominating petitions for city elective officers in lieu of the current percentage-based minimums and maximums?
Proposal G: Shall the city charter, which currently prohibits city officials and employees from accepting gifts, gratuities, honoraria, and other things of value in connection with their work for the city, be amended to provide that the city council shall determine by ordinance which of these are prohibited?
Proposal M: Shall the 1984 Detroit City Code be amended to exempt adults, 21 and older, from criminal prosecution for use or possession of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property in the city of Detroit?
Proposal P: Shall the city charter, which currently prohibits city officials and employees for one year after leaving their positions, from lobbying or appearing before city council or other parts of city government or receiving compensation for any matter in which he or she was involved while working for the city, be amended to permit such activity for former city officials or employees who have a personal service contract with the city?
This is only a snapshot of the proposals. For a full sample ballot with complete wording, please call the Department of Elections at 313-876-0190 or 800-649-3777. For insights into each ballot proposal to help you choose your stance, visit votesmart.org and vote411.org.
Wensdy Von Buskirk is a metro Detroit freelance writer.