Commissioners voted 5-1 (Mayor Pro-Tem David Poulton was the lone no) to support directing staff to draft a letter to voters, provide costs for such a mailing and to offer alternatives that may be less costly.
Rasor told leaders "there is a lot of misinformation out there" and that they have an obligation to educate the public concerning the human rights ordinance (HRO).
' I think it's a fair thing to do'"(Let's) go ahead and move forward with a fair and educated voting population," Rasor said. "I wouldn't want to do this if it weren't something that I thought was subject to a lot of misinterpretation and misinformation. I certainly don't think we need to do this with every single ordinance that we pass. However, in terms of this particular election, I think it's a fair thing to do."
Providing residents with information concerning ballot questions is not unprecedented. In September 2012, commissioners authorized a letter signed by Mayor Jim Ellison, which went out to voters, explaining the public safety millage proposal.
"Although the city cannot campaign for or against any legislative initiatives, it is always appropriate to provide our residents with information, in fact it’s our obligation," reported City Manager Don Johnson last year.
In 2012, Johnson estimated the cost of a mailing a letter to registered voters at approximately $13,700 to $15,700. The city has more than 49,000 registered voters. Last November, 33,564 voters went to the polls.
"It's not really uncharted territory in terms of authorized expenditures or lawful expenditures of city funds," said City Attorney Dave Gillam.
However, the city cannot utilize any public money in terms of taking sides or providing interpretations. It can only provide information, Gillam said.
HRO ballot languageThe Proposal A language voters will weigh in on in November reads:
An ordinance to amend the code of the City of Royal Oak to prohibit discrimination based upon actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical or mental limitation, source of income, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status, and to provide penalties for the violation there of.
Do you find the HRO ballot language confusing? Let us know in the comments.