School Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin and Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O'Donohue, subbing for City Manager Don Johnson, gave straightforward answers to questions after their prepared talks making the case for their millage. They addressed a small audience gathered at the Royal Oak Library. The town hall was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters Oakland Area and the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce.
Superintendent Lewis-Lakin opened with a forceful and clear presentation of the School District's need to establish a sinking fund. Using a handful of charts and tabulation (but not so many as to cause eyes to glaze over) he showed the interrelatedness of such factors as student population, sale of properties, no new debt obligations, and the expected drop in total school tax rate after four years. "We have used no pie-in-the-sky estimates in building our case."
"Why get on the crowded November ballot?" was one of the questions asked. "We can start the roofing work early next year, if the millage passes" and "We wanted as many voters as possible to have a vote."
Police Chief O'Donohue reminded the audience that the proposed city millage is dedicated to Public Safety and cited the dedicated Library millage as evidence that earmarked millages are not unprecedented. Using a handful of power point illustrations, he showed the 40% drop in police officers and the potential drastic cuts in 2014 if the millage doesn't pass. The chief explained that even if funds are supplied the department cannot hire a dozen newbies all at once. Qualification and training procedures take several months, so people are brought in 3 or 4 at a time.
"Code enforcement and the city attorney's office fall under 'public safety'," O'Donohue explained when asked why those activities are covered by the dedicated millage.
Fire Chief Chuck Thomas whose department's status was included in O'Donohue's presentation, explained the usual 1-time limitation of grants; mentioned that the department has a grant-writer on staff; and said that current response time for its ambulances is 6 minutes.
Counting sponsors, speakers, and camera crew there were perhaps 30 people in the auditorium, suggesting there were fewer than a dozen actual attendees. Low turnouts have been typical at millage-focused meetings. Cluster conversations after this session focused on the obvious apathy of residents and the impact that that indifference will have on the vote.
My summary: With the help of my vote, the city millage will narrowly pass. With the help of my vote the school millage should pass more comfortably.
The pictured cluster conversation, courtesy of Patch, shows gesturing Police Chief Corrigan O'Donohue, in mufti, answering a question. Leaning against the wall is red-shirted Mayor Jim Ellison, who expanded on a point or two when the chief asked him to during the presentation and otherwise just mingled with the audience.
League of Women Voter moderator Jerry Burden three times reminded the audience to "turn the ballot over" because the millage will be near the end of the long November ballot.
Frank Versagi is the editor of Versagi Voice.