Monday, May 14, 2012

Michigan: Three Oak Park officials facing recall petitions

Three Oak Park officials, Mayor Pro Tem Angela Diggs Jackson and Councilmen Emile Duplessis and Paul Levine,  are facing recall petitions. Petitioners need about 2,600 verified signatures in 90 days.

The petitioners cite a 25-year bond (sounds like it is for $9.7 million) for a new City Hall and public safety facilities  The city has a $3-million deficit and laid off 10 officers

1 comment:

  1. Duplessis and Jackson are quoted in the article saying that the recall effort will cost up to $100,000 dollars. This is false. The recall question will be put to voters on the November ballot, and will add no additional cost to the city. While it is true that if the council members are recalled a new special election will need to be held, the cost of the election to the city for proposals 1 and 2 this May is only $50,000 dollars. There is no reason to expect that the cost will be what Duplessis and Jackson say. Further, a special election might be held in conjunction with other elections, which would eliminate any additional cost.

    We should also consider the cost of the policies of Duplessis, Jackson, and Levine. The City of Oak Park currently provides financial benefits to the City Council that greatly exceed what is provided to council members of neighboring communities. Aligning these benefits with those of Royal Oak, Berkley, and Ferndale would result in a net gain to the city budget, even if a special election is required. These lavish benefits averaging $20,000 per year per council member call into question Duplessis’ assertion that “I’m not in it for the money.” If that is the case, why doesn’t he forgo these benefits with other council members to save the job of one public safety officer?

    Jackson asks, “Why not do the building the people voted for?” The problem with this question is that people did not vote for a new city hall. The bond provides money for improvements to a variety of city owned properties, and not specifically for a new City Hall. Renovation, in other words, is not only a more cost-effective option but a valid use of bond funds. Moreover, Duplessis, Jackson, and Levine approved an additional $4.2 million dollar bond financed through Oakland County, which did not receive citizen approval. This bond was issued because the proposed city hall and improvements to the library had overrun their estimates, another example of poor oversight on part of the City Council.

    On the issue of contingency funds for the building, even after the new city hall was “value engineered” to help reduce cost overruns, not enough money has been set aside. Jackson asserts that the industry standard is 5 to 7 percent and that 7 to 8 percent of the budget has been set aside for construction cost overruns. This, however, does not include the ten percent owner’s contingency, which has not been provided for. Any contingencies that the bond is unable to cover must be covered by the city’s general fund. The city already will have to lay off public safety officers to operate the new building. The question that the citizens of Oak Park have to ask is whether or not the city can afford to lose even more public safety officers when close to 30 percent of the safety force has already been laid off? Can the city afford to keep Jackson, Duplessis, and Levine?

    Geneva Connors
    Save Oak Park