"This is the most people we have ever had attend this," Mayor Jim Ellison said. "This is great."
The intention of the strategic planning session is to establish goals, objectives and policies for the city and about a dozen people showed up to put their two cents in.
Among items residents asked city officials to consider included:
- year-to-year crime statistics comparisons
- support for the Royal Oak Commission for the Arts
- a master plan for the 3-acre Mark Twain Dog Park
- commitment to the city's non-motorized plan
"Are you happy with a town were everybody takes a car everyplace?" asked Tom Regan, a Royal Oak resident and biking enthusiast.
Main Street currently has four lanes. Regan asked the city to consider a road diet for Main Street that would change it to three lanes with a center turning lane and bike lanes on either side.
"Bike lanes not only improve public health, but we'd get all the other economic benefits that a bikeable city gets. It becomes more attractive to young people and businesses that like to hire young people," Regan said.
Mayor speaks out, too
For Royal Oak resident Brendan Wehrung, what was notable about the session's agenda was what wasn't on it – a discussion of legacy costs.
"The millage pushed back the year in which the fund balance went negative, but it's still there," Wehrung said.
The mayor, who was quiet during most of public comment, addressed Wehrung's concern.
"I want to address this fallacy that we haven't started talking about legacy costs. I've been up here for 10 years and we've been talking about it for at least the last five years. There's not a whole lot we can do right now, but we are not ignoring it," Ellison said.
Ellison pointed out Royal Oak is not the only city with issues concerning legacy costs, describing the issue as a multi-faceted problem.
"For us to try to solve legacy costs and go out there and raise all the money we need to offset it, our community would die. We could never afford it," the mayor said. "Our goal is to provide services on a daily basis and we know we are kicking the can down the road...but we are not ignoring the problem. We talk about it every year at budget time. (City Manager) Don Johnson has come up with suggestions and ideas and we haven't acted on them yet."
Ellison alluded to the state and its $6 billion surplus as being part of the problem.
"They got that (surplus) by not giving us giving us our state revenue sharing payments. We're trying to get them to give it back to us," Ellison said.