Survey Says: Residents Open to Selling Parks, Supporting Tax Increase for Roads

Survey feedback will be used to help city officials make potential decisions, including whether or not to sell less-used city parks.

City leaders got their first look at the results of a citywide survey that asked residents to chime in on potential decisions city officials are considering regarding parks and roads.

And the survey says:

Should Royal Oak sell less-used parks to improve parks that are used more often?

Yes: 47 percent
No: 25 percent
Unsure/need more information: 28 percent

Would you support a modest tax increase dedicated to maintain and reconstruct local roads?

Yes: 57 percent
No: 18 percent
Unsure/need more information: 25 percent

Cobalt Community Research – a Lansing-based nonprofit organization – presented the results at the city's strategic planning meeting held in the conference room in the Royal Oak police station Saturday.

Surveys were sent to 1,500 residents drawn from voter records. Responses were received from 333 residents.

At the strategic planning meeting officials were presented with a list of eight underused parks by Stewart Meek, assistant to the city manager. The list includes:

City Manager Don Johnson suggested Royal Oak City Commissioners make parks and roads a priority in 2014. Voters could see one or both issues on the ballot in August or September.
Marie Cavanaugh January 19, 2014 at 09:18 PM
I'm not in favor of selling any city green space, but I also can't fathom city residents taking over the care of the parks. I live on a boulevard which gets minimal work from parks and forestry. My husband and I mow, edge, blow the street, do all the raking and fall cleanup with little help from other homeowners. The city hasn't pruned a bush or trimmed a tree on the boulevard in three years. I can't even imagine maintaining a park!!
Matt Turner January 20, 2014 at 09:23 AM
I live near Bassett and Kenwood Parks. I don't see Bassett used very often at all (right on a busy intersection to boot). If the city wanted to sell it and make improvements to nearby Kenwood, I would be OK with it.
Nancy Barnett January 20, 2014 at 09:53 AM
Pamela Ozdych Saunders January 20, 2014 at 10:19 AM
Fulton Park is NOT underused. Parents in this community send their kids there because it is in the middle of a neighborhood. They don’t want their children playing in parks on major roads where in today’s world, safety is an issue. As younger families move back to Royal Oak, this park provides the exact quaint community feel we all desire. Middle school boys play baseball and football in that park for HOURS every day of the summer. Pre & elementary school kids play in the sand. I would love to see the data used to evaluate the park’s dormancy.
Pamela Ozdych Saunders January 20, 2014 at 11:06 AM
We need to make more parks inside neighborhoods to foster that sense of community. How do you do this? How about selling portions of parks located on major roads? Build 4-8 houses that back up to parks.. then you not only get tax revenue, but encapsulate important green space to neighborhoods and make it safer for the kids to play!
linn gold January 20, 2014 at 04:07 PM
I'm surprised that we are short on money to take care of the parks. As any can see they are tearing homes down all over turning little bungalows into large 300,000. dollars homes. Much more money is coming into the city.
Bill Shaw January 21, 2014 at 12:34 AM
In my years in R.O., I've always tried to thank residents who have taken the time to do their homework and present an argument based on fact and not an emotional basis. I doff my hat to the comments made above by "Bill." His observations regarding the functions and uses of surveys was right on. Having been a student at Oakland Univ., I did attend courses in Probability and statistics. Later in the private sector I was able to utilize my studies in engineering and market surveys. I wholeheartedly agree that the wording can skew results both consciously and unconsciously. The second most important aspect is the selection and make up of the population being surveyed. The biggest fallibility of a survey is the survey is slanted to attempt to prove a result desired by the poll results user. Results can be skewed by answers that are Yes/No questions, ! - 10 questions, or the popular: never- somewhat-maybe-always questions. I feel the survey presented to the commission Saturday was just as useless as the survey presented last year and will provide the same useless data for good decision making by our elected officials. The most major priority in the city for the short, medium, and long term should relvove upon our financial crisis. Yes, I do believe it represents a crisis that the residents are totally in the dark about. This is non-transparency at its best. The city is short of money for maintaining parks and senior services due to growing reductions in Federal Block Grant Funding. For over 30 years the city used millions of CDBG funds to maintain parks, install playground facilities, and construct the present Boys and Girls club, fund Haven among many other activities. Until last year the cities Senior Program never required $1 dollar of Royal Oak taxpayer money. Roads in our city, excluding state and county roads, have been funded by the state and now that funding has dried up. In discussions with good friend Nancy Barnett and her appeal for no new taxes I feel will fall on deaf ears. My suspicion that not only will the public safety be extended but more requested. A "moderate" tax for roads. A small tax for senior services, and bonding out for loans. A of this will increase the debt load. I will be attempting to provide insight to our unfunded liabilities over the next month in my Patch blog. If you have any comments, questions, or remarks please let me know.
Sherry Lane January 21, 2014 at 05:12 PM
sounds like the survey..was done by a company who wants to cram more houses in.. yeah lets get family's to buy into these new neighborhoods..wait.. small children.. sorry we just tore down all the elementary schools..just saying
Bob January 22, 2014 at 09:00 AM
I would rather keep all the parks and eliminate one of the two city owned golf courses. Why do we have two?
niteman January 22, 2014 at 12:25 PM
Yes, the survey sounds like it was skewed for their benefit. I for one agree with Nancy Barnett too. NO MORE TAX INCREASES! I feel like we're going to be forced out of Royal Oak because every year or so the city comes us with another millage or increase that just compounds to a close-to-outrageous property tax rate. Being civic-minded, I have voted to approve every millage they've put forth for the last 20 years until last year when they bamboozled the general public with Proposal A (police and fire personnel increase). Don't get me wrong, I am appreciative of them both but the city needs to start finding money elsewhere instead of always reaching into our pockets. Get rid of Normandy Oaks to help pay for things if that's what it takes.
The Duke of Royal Oak January 22, 2014 at 02:59 PM
If this is the city managers way of dealing with the residents perhaps we need to explore other options, perhaps one that lives in the city. How much was spent on a new city logo? I can find only that $20,000.00 was allocated in one budget year (Patch), I thought I heard it cost $40,000.00 Does anyone know the exact amount? Either way, that was a HUGE waste of money, and now you want to sell city assets!!!! SHAME!!!!
margaret blount January 22, 2014 at 04:37 PM
It sounds like they have already decided what are underutilized parks. So where is the data and what is it? The commission meets on a Saturday morning and makes these decision.
DianeKH January 23, 2014 at 03:31 PM
Nice to hear from you Bill. Every time I mention unfunded liabilities, legacy costs, etc., I am met with blank stares. I hear that the all important strategic planning meeting pretty much avoided this topic. Most RO residents are in for a rude awakening in the near future.
RAM January 23, 2014 at 04:29 PM
Bill and Diane both ran for City Commission exclusively on a platform of addressing unfunded liabilities, and they both lost. In fact Bill is 0 for 3 when running for office. If it's that important of an issue, wouldn't it stand to reason that at least one of them would have been elected?
Judy Davids (Editor) January 23, 2014 at 05:25 PM
Duke, the cost of the most recent Cobalt survey was estimated at $12,085.
DianeKH January 23, 2014 at 06:05 PM
RAM-It IS that important, but our elected officials don't want to put it on the table because they don't have an answer and it seems insurmountable. So... they continue to deflect and ignore. No one has to take my word. Look at the budget and financial reports. We are in big time debt and it will be biting us in the butt soon. Your comment is almost laughable to me. Since when does reason and politics go hand in hand?
DianeKH January 23, 2014 at 06:10 PM
RAM-My platform was not exclusively about unfunded liabilities. I was and am interested in my elected officials spending my money as thoughtfully as I do.
DianeKH January 23, 2014 at 06:19 PM
RAM-As to why I didn't win... Maybe it was because I was a newbie, or maybe it was because I was against yet another law, or maybe I didn't do enough sugar coating or sucking up. Maybe it was a combination of all of those things. I am serious about finding solutions that work. I'm willing to bleed a little and take some pain, knowing that it will save my life down the road. Many people just don't want to hear the truth because it's not warm and fuzzy, so instead they choose to ignore or buy into the bullsh**. I've never had all of the answers (and never will), but I'm willing to open my eyes and ask the questions. Are you?
Bill Shaw January 23, 2014 at 06:35 PM
RAM, if you understood why we are concerned rather than our political records I'am sure you would be less critical. If you ever ran for office you would understand that in todays political world, people want to hear what they want to hear. I can't speak for Diane, but I knew RO was not ready to hear bad news. Since my loss(s) liaibalitys have gotten worse. With new accounting rules this year you will start to understand. Keep you eye on the next ballot. You must remember what the newly elected commissioners ran on if you remember me. I was asked by all candidates to discuss the liability issue with them. I only hope they remember what they told me.
DianeKH January 23, 2014 at 06:59 PM
RAM and anyone else who may be interested... I just printed out the "Acceptance of June 30, 2013 Retirement (Pension) Actuarial Valuation Report" which is on the next commission agenda. It is 53 pages of legalize and mumbo jumbo explaining our current situation regarding unfunded liabilities. It will take some time to get through it, but I have my highlighter ready. I challenge my fellow citizens to get an education on this topic.
Bill Shaw January 23, 2014 at 07:04 PM
Judy, I realize the reported cost which is probably costing and reported using the Art's, Beats, and Eats school of accounting. My problem is what was the end objective. Was it met? Our most pressing and highest priority should be the unfunded liability of $170 million. That said, why do we get sold city assets, golf courses, and what ever not nailed down. You attended a town meeting that I held and attempted to emphasize the problem we face. The city spent an inordinate amount of time and money to "sell" the public safety millage to the residents. Don't you think that the city should live up to their fiducary responsibilities and educate the residents and emphasize the problem. Remember, only a few short years ago, the residents wisely defeated a millage due to a perported $6.4 million short fall. The short fall disappered days after the millage defeat. I still have a buring question. Where is the accounting for the millions of dollars that went into the general fund for public safety after the PS millage was passed?
Judy Davids (Editor) January 24, 2014 at 11:06 AM
Bill, I have an answer to your question. It will be coming just as fast as I can type it!
Judy Davids (Editor) January 24, 2014 at 11:28 AM
This link is for you, Bill: http://royaloak.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/where-is-accounting-for-the-millions-generated-from-public-safety-millage
Sherry Lane January 25, 2014 at 12:16 AM
I think that the new logo and signage "Royal Oak now playing should have a backside reading... "Royal Oak not playing !! please don't let anymore of our greenspace go to any more developers
Jack Manning January 25, 2014 at 10:26 AM
Oh yes, sell all the green. You can't have parks to relieve the urban congestion, they must be sold for an increase in revenue which will increase even further when the Developers move-in to erase those green areas entirely. The City can't waste money on maintaining parks.
Sue Fabian January 25, 2014 at 11:36 AM
I hope the city observes by the posts how dearly held our green space is. Some of the posts are thoughtful, others full of emotion, but most are indicative of the irretrievable value of our parks. Once gone, they're gone. Your study is a START. This blog is a START. However, given this age of social media, if you want the best data available PRIOR TO A VOTER'S REFERENDUM, why not hire a company that help's municipalities prioritize community-held priorities, establishes a web-portal for community comment w/i it's study, then presents its solidly-based findings. I would like such an important decision made based on more representative input/findings. To limit decisions (if indeed city decisions are based solely upon this study and does not consider other input, such as this blog) on a survey response of ~33% from ~1000 of of population of 57,000 produces data that is questionably generalizable. I know of such consultants if city decision-makers are interested. In fact, they'll be in Ann Arbor in April. They assist communities across the country. I know them well. Visit their website: http://www.pbbcenter.org/, or one of their 3-minute videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwonmSHTcho. They de-emphasize line-item analysis and shake the whole process up by basing their analysis on multi-stakeholder input, including priorities voiced by community residents. Forgive the fact that one of the co-founders is my nephew. He may even recommend results I don't like for all I know! I have no interest other than to see Royal Oak thrive as a happy, healthy community, and make connections that seem helpful to achieve that result.
Bill Shaw January 25, 2014 at 12:26 PM
Sue, I would like to be positive, but after two decades of committees, meetings, and five years of strategic planning meeting if feel you have a first class city with second class administration. Selling parks and golf courses have a five to seven year cycle. Whenever the city administration wants to put a millage on the table, they start by treating to sell off green spaces. See prior administration with Semchena, Andrajak, as commissioners who voted to dedicate the parks and to protect them. To support the last millage the city spent money for an ICMA study to support their agenda. The ICMA studied the police and fire departments. The police side supported the millage and the fire study supported privatizing parts of the department. Get a copy and read their conclusions. See what the city liked and what they ignored. Do you really think the city wants to open the decisions to an informed population? You seek a happy, healthy, thriving community With a standing debt of pension and OPEB costs you would probably have to sell the entire business district. Please keep in mind that the decisions that are being made today will be, and are, being pushed onto future generations. Maybe they will have some "solutions" this generation doesn't!
Sue Fabian January 25, 2014 at 01:25 PM
Bill, I admit to being naive about this details of this issue and prior positions held by stakeholders. Your post helps inform the history of the decision-makers and seems to call into question whether the decision-makers, no matter their position, have the courage/wisdom/integrity to look at the greater truth--what the residents (who pay all of the city salaries) want for the community in which they live. I pray our policy-makers rise to that truth and get beyond what s/he individually believes to be the best for all concerned (at best), or h/er own hidden agenda (at worst). An impartial fact-finder of the ilk I suggested in my prior post would seem to accomplish that. Any such fact-finder would cost, however the greater cost would be a council decision made contrary to what the majority want--whatever that may be.
Alicia January 26, 2014 at 02:02 AM
Please bring forward a plan.
Lord of Woodsboro February 04, 2014 at 12:38 PM
Underutilized parks reports. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/kvodrtg8g3qrmbl/Cd91jjO6qV


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »