This is the text from my public comments at last night's city commission meeting.
In recent weeks there has been much discussion and comment in the various print and on line media regarding our city, the downtown, liquor licenses and public safety.
Much of the discussion has been heated and there are many half -truths, rumors,
innuendo and flat out false statements tossed around. But the one thing I think
that almost every citizen agrees on is this - we need more police and fire
staffing in our city.
And let’s be clear. This is about the entire city of Royal Oak, not just one particular area. This is not about bars or restaurants that serve alcohol; it is about
staffing to meet the needs of our city – the downtown business district and the
neighborhoods. Woodward Avenue and Campbell Road.
The recent I C M A study suggested we need around 10 more employees in the police department to bring us up to minimum standard. And that will not even get us close to where we were 10 years ago. Our population has decreased but not that much.
The current tax dollars and cents don’t add up for the required staffing levels. I think the citizens that are properly informed will realize that our budget crisis is real and public safety costs continue to rise and a large part of this is legacy
costs. Those will not go away. Doing nothing would be bad, voting against the
millage will be worse. It is the only way we can provide the level of public
safety that we all want for Royal Oak.
Due to declining values it is no secret that property owners in Royal Oak are paying less taxes than we were five – 10 years ago. In some cases a lot less. 10 - 20 % since 2007. Now if we want to improve our public safety staffing we have to pay for it. You cannot expect to get more and pay less. This is not Wall Mart. To their credit the police and fire unions have stepped up to the plate and given concessions in recent months – now it is our turn as citizens. We are all in this together.
City Manager Johnson and his team have done thorough job of presenting this proposal. A 5 year levy seems to be appropriate at this time. As we see property
values stabilize and even increase and perhaps there will be some relief for future
budget requirements. Being a real estate agent I can assure you that this is
happening. Home prices are moving higher and demand is great for Royal Oak….because of our neighborhoods, our schools, our parks and ..yes our downtown.
In reading and hearing all the comments about our downtown I cannot help but feel sad that there are those who say they will never vote for a public safety millage because the bars and restaurants are taking away from the neighborhood police patrols. Even if this was true - and it is not – I have to ask why you would vote against something that is for the benefit of our Entire City. Stop with the
US vs. THEM attitude. We are all citizens and business owners in this town. Let’s work together.
There are those out there who would like to make this a referendum on a liquor
licenses. Well folks I got news for you, we already had that election and the citizens voted 2 to 1 against a moratorium. Please move on already. I don’t care if we had one liquor license or fifty in our city, we still would need the additional police staffing – for our Entire city. The additional staffing should be
deployed in order to meet the needs throughout Royal Oak.
I love this city. I have lived here for 36 years and owned 4 different homes. There are reasons why we stayed in Royal Oak as I mentioned before. My wife and I have also owned a business in downtown Royal Oak at a time when we could only dream about what it looks like today. Vibrant, exciting, alive and a great place to bring family and friends. I do not deny that there are problems and challenges with the growth we have experienced but I think the city commission has done a fine job of considering each and every request put before them on an individual basis and looked at all the facts when making a decision.
I applaud you for the hard work and thoughtful, civil discussions. Yes there are some valid arguments about the number of Liquor Licenses and the concentration of establishments. This discussion should be on-going and I implore the commission to consider carefully any future requests. But to hold that as the reason to vote against this millage is to ignore the real need we have today. It would be shortsighted, selfish and irresponsible.
The city workers have done their part. The City manager and his staff have done the homework and laid out a plan. Now it is time for us to chip in.
I enthusiastically support a proposed public safety millage.