Advisory Questions Nixed From Dearborn's November Ballot
Three proposals were approved for Dearborn residents to vote on, but questions about city services submitted to the state by city officials were rejected.
Advisory questions intended to help Dearborn city officials decipher where residents' sentiments lie on city programs and services will not appear on November's ballot, City Council President Tom Tafelski confirmed Monday.
"All advisory questions are not on the ballot," Tafelski said. "Basically, the Wayne County Clerk’s and Attorney General’s office did not approve the language because they feel it can only be yes or no questions.
"(Dearborn city officials) all felt the yes or no questions didn’t quite give us what we were looking for."
During ballot discussions in July, council explained that the questions would ask residents what they consider to be “essential” city services worthy of city funding. The questions will focus on leaf-removal services, city pools, the Dearborn Public Library and the Dearborn Historical Museum.
However, it was decided at that time that the questions would allow residents to choose between several options, rather than to just vote "yes" or "no."
The responses would have been nonbinding and would not change city charter. Rather, explained Mayor Jack O'Reilly in July, "The advisory questions were intended to get direct voter feedback on some key issues that have been deliberated and debated in budget hearings for a long times."
The questions were also meant to be supplemental to two millage questions, which will be on November's ballot. The first asks residents to give the city the ability to levy up to an additional 3.5 mills–on top of 15 existing mills–to be used for "general operations." The second measure, if approved, would add one mill specifically intended for support of the public library system.
With heated debate among residents and city officials about which programs should be cut and which should continue to be funded, advisory questions were intended to give the city council a better understanding of which programs the public most supported.
But now that the idea has been shot down by state officials, who must approve all ballot language. Tafelski said the questions are a "dead issue."
"We’re all elected by our peers and the community to get the pulse of it," he said. "We’ll do what we’ve always done and make those decisions."
Tafelski maintains that funds gained from any additional mills approved to be levied by the city would be used to fund a mixture of city services–the breakdown of which has not been decided.
"It’s general operating mills–it’s not only for police and fire," he said, warning that passage of the mill increases would not necessarily save any particular program or service.
"Even if (the millage) does pass," he said, "we're still at a structural deficit."