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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Public Act 523 allows Cities to hold municipal elections in even numbered years coinciding with State and National Elections. What do you think ?

State Bill 810 became Michigan Public Act 523, When Governor Snyder signed it this  March and it became law.

It gives cities  which vote in annual elections (we used to) or in November odd year only elections (we do now) the option of changing to elections held in even number years in November. That would mean  our City elections would coincide with State and Federal elections. Prior to Public Act 523 that cities were excluded from doing so.

This fall, on November 5th the City will vote in it's first November odd year election in its 81 year history. As of this writing an 

overwhelming voter turn out is not anticipated. The four candidates are the usual number  our City produced in an odd numbered year going back  almost a decade. The City will also carry the entire election costs because there is no common  community to share the ballot with. In 2012, in the City's  May election, the City piggy backed with Bloomfield Hills Schools who paid for a special spring election. Bloomfield Hills Schools however  by state mandate vote in even not odd years.  A small portion of the City votes in Birmingham Schools  and but they too vote in even years eliminates any sharing of cost there.

It was a year ago today (September 11th 2012)  that the City of Bloomfield Hills City Commission voted  to replace the Annual City Election  held in May, with a bi-annual election to be held in November in odd years only.

 Proponents of the change (The Mayor, City Commissioners  and the City Staff) cited 

  •  cost savings 
  • the fact that other Cities voted in November on a bi-annual basis.
  •  the prospects of a larger voter turnout because as the City Manager put it "people know to vote in November."
  • The City Manager also suggested that if the change were not made the Governor might make us do so at a later date.

Advocates of the annual May election  mostly residents, stressed
  •   the  importance  of residents participating in annual election
  •  and the value of an election which focused on just local concerns..

It was issue that could have been debated a number of ways with good arguments on both sides, but it was never debated. City Commission also could have elected to put the issue on the ballot for the residents to decide. That was not done

It seemed to one observer that City was a mission to change the City's election cycle as fast as possible as soon as possible. You may form your own opinion by watching the filmed  City Commission Meetings on the City web site.They are the June, July, and September meetings of 2012. 

Questions that did come up during those meetings included a four year terms for City Commissioners to maintain staggered terms. That was brought up by the City Attorney but rejected by the commission. Staggered  two year terms don't work with an every other year election cycles. That means in the current arrangement the entire commission will be up for re-election every two years.

 Last September the  the most significant election change in the City's eighty year history was decided after a short public hearing required by law. The City began the hearing with a twenty minute presentation of how the City would benefit from a change to a November odd year only election cycle. After which  three or four residents spoke with various degrees of enthusiasm for the November odd year switch and one spoke against it. Then the commission voted 5-0 to make the change.

There is a saying in regards to both Michigan weather and elections.

It goes Don't like it ?  Hang around. It will change.

It has. The debate going on elsewhere in the State about the advantages of a November election in either odd or even years exclusively seems to center around the pros and cons of a small election as opposed to big election. 

Off hand one would imagine a  small election works better for a small community if it can be afforded. The City of Bloomfield Hills can afford it but our Communion chose otherwise for cost savings and voter turn out neither of which has yet to materialize. A Big election offers the highest return in terms  of cost sharing  and voter turn out but at a price.

 Public Act 523 means  that now the residents  of the City of Bloomfield Hills will have some say in the matter. Lansing gives all the election decision making to the local government (which is our City Commission) but there is only a small buffet to choose from. Going back to annual May election does not seem to be a current option. November odd years only (which we have now) and November even years only seem to be the only alternatives.

Because there is an alternative  residents are not without some power. 2013 is after all an election year. Four candidates seek three vacant seats on the five person City Commission. Each voter will have one vote per vacant seat or three all together when voting  on November 5th.

"So what do you thing of Public Act 523," is a perfectly good question to ask a candidate seeking your vote. We are told it is often heard in the best salons and ballrooms statewide. \


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