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Mayor vows fight for road bond after millage defeat
CLAWSON- Opponents of Clawson's $25 million road bond proposal scored an upset victory at the polls on Tuesday after defeating the plan 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent.
But Mayor Lisa Dwyer is not backing down, vowing that the issue will be back on the ballot in August.
City officials labored for months to craft a bond proposal that they say is the best way to pay for things like road reconstruction, water and sewer upgrades and road-related amenities.
Under the failed proposal, the $25 million worth of bonds would have had been issued in three series in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Each series would have had a 20-year term.
Although the proposal specifically called for 3.48 mills in 2006, the average annual millage was estimated at 3.1.
Dwyer said there were plenty of opportunities to educate the public about the bond, but she blamed low turnout for the defeat. "I don't think people showed up at the polls," she said. "The numbers don't reflect the sense of community pride that they should."
City Clerk Machelle Kukuk said election turnout was about 20 percent.
In January, a citywide poll of 376 residents through Clarkston-based Intellitrends, LLC, forecasted a different outcome than Tuesday's election.
The poll concluded that 94.7 percent of respondents said they were very likely to vote in May. It also said 53.2 percent were very likely to endorse some type of a millage hike, and 25.4 percent were somewhat likely to support one.
The poll had a margin of error of 5 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
Paul Garfield, who opposed the bond through his Web site www.clawsontaxpayer.com, said it was initially hard to tell whether his "uphill" campaign would come out on top. But he said he wasn't too surprised that his side won after hearing from his supporters, which he estimates at about 1,600.
"I think it speaks volumes, and I think they (city officials) need to listen to the people," Garfield said.
Garfield said he is relieved the bond proposal failed because he said it would've specifically hurt senior citizens, mom and pop businesses and the city's ability to spend on necessities like police in a time of dire need.
To help pay for road reconstruction, Garfield said the city should consider trimming the budget in areas like the Department of Public Works and the city's media apparatus. "Do they really need all that machinery? Do we really need two TV stations in this city?" he asked. "These are options that need to be looked at."
Dwyer promptly rejected Garfield's arguments. "There's no validity," she said. "We did our research... and I don't think they're critics -- I think they're liars, and they should take no pride in how this vote went."
The mayor predicted that the bond proposal loss would have consequences. For instance, because the water main project on 14 Mile Road has to be done this year, the city will likely review water rates for an increase, she said.
To ensure better chances for success next time, Dwyer said she hopes to better inform the media about the bond proposal. That way, the city could clear up misinformation spread by opponents, she said.
But she said she does not foresee changing the bond proposal's size if it returns on the ballot. "The loss was so small that I don't think the amount was the issue," she said. "We're going to slam dunk it in August."
Not so fast, said Garfield, who warned the city against any attempt to put the bond issue back on the ballot.
"If that's their response, when your local unit of government is not listening to the voters, then our only course of action is to recall the mayor and council," he said.