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Hazel Park, Madison Heights

Hazel Park voters approve legalization of marijuana, school millage

Madison Heights, Hazel Park weigh in on local, county and state races, issues

August 6, 2014

MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — Readers in the Madison-Park News’ coverage area hit the polls Aug. 5 to vote for primary candidates in several races: state senator in districts 11 and 13, and state representative in district 27. They also decided on a change to the state use tax, a transportation millage for Oakland County, a millage proposal in Hazel Park Public Schools, and a marijuana initiative in Hazel Park.

Marijuana initiative

Voters approved an amendment to Hazel Park’s Code of Ordinances, which will allow anyone age 21 and older to possess, transfer and use less than 1 ounce of marijuana on private properties not accessible to the public.

However, marijuana remains illegal at the state and federal levels. 

In Hazel Park, 1,224 people voted on the issue, with 62.34 percent (763 votes) approving the decriminalization of marijuana.

Andrew Cissell — who lost in the Democratic primary for state rep, District 27 — has been working with the Coalition for a Safer Michigan to decriminalize marijuana.

In his hometown of Oak Park, voters approved the legalization of marijuana by 53.04 percent (2,161 votes, out of 4,074).

Cissell has also turned in petitions so the issue will voted on in Berkley, Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge this fall. Ferndale residents adopted their own ordinance change decriminalizing marijuana last November.

“I don’t think (marijuana) is as serious as people make it sound,” Cissell said in July. “People are up in arms about the kids or it being a gateway drug … but to make it a crime is a little absurd — to throw people in jail and use our tax-payer money to pay for the jail and judges and everything. Nobody wants kids to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana, but this is about adults, and it comes down to parenting and educating.

“State law trumps local laws, but our objective is to go city by city, especially in southeastern Oakland County,” Cissell said previously. “We want to show the rest of the state that we are 10 for 10 or 20 for 20 in getting ordinances passed. When we have enough cities on our side, we can push for a statewide law, so we are looking to get momentum up for that initiative.”


HPPS millage proposal

Hazel Park Public Schools sought, and secured, an operating millage that will levy no more than the statutory rate of 18 mills on all property, except principal resident and other property exempted by law, required for the district to receive revenues at the full per-pupil foundation allowance permitted by the state.

The proposal received the support of 57.75 percent of voters (909 votes) and was opposed by 42.25 percent (665 votes). 

At 18 mills, the district will receive $18 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation, for a period of seven years, from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2021. This will provide the district an estimated $2,355,406 in revenue during the 2014 calendar year, to be used strictly for general operating purposes.


County transportation millage

Oakland County proposed a public transportation millage renewal, and voters approved the measure. This will also increase the .59 mills currently levied by the Oakland County Public Transportation Authority in 2012-13, to 1.0 mills for 2014-17.

In all, 73.62 percent of voters (73,420 votes) supported the renewal, while 26.38 percent (26,306 votes) opposed it.

This supports the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or SMART system of public transportation serving the elderly, disabled and general public of Oakland County. The move will generate an estimated $27 million this year.


State House of Representatives District 27

Two candidates were running for the Republican nomination, while five candidates were running for the Democratic nomination. The winners will compete for one two-year term in the general election this November.

On the Republican side, Michael Ryan secured 67.09 percent of the vote (1,382 votes) and beat Mark Manier, who garnered support from 32.91 percent (678 votes).

On the Democratic side, Robert Wittenberg came out on top with 43.99 percent (4,165 votes), followed by Rudy Serra at 19.49 percent (1,845 votes); Kelli Williams, at 15.04 percent (1,424 votes); Joe McHugh, 11.55 percent (1,094 votes); and Andrew Cissell, 9.93 percent (940 votes).


State Senate District 11

The Democratic field was contested by three candidates, while Boris Tuman ran unopposed for the Republic nomination for the chance to compete for one four-year term this November. In the Democratic race, Vincent Gregory narrowly claimed victory at 34.68 percent of the vote (10,286 votes), edging out Vicki Barnett at 34.29 percent (10,169 votes). Ellen Cogen Lipton was backed by 31.03 percent of voters (9,204 votes).


State Senate District 13

Five candidates ran for the Republican nomination, while two candidates ran for the Democratic nomination. The winners will compete for one four-year term in November.

On the Republican side, Marty Knollenberg came out on top with 36.23 percent of the vote (8,788 votes), followed by Rocky Raczkowski, at 35.93 percent (8,716 votes); Chuck Moss, at 20.32 percent (4,929 votes); Ethan Baker, at 6.37 percent (1,546 votes); and Al Gui, at 1.14 percent (276 votes).

Among the Democrats, Cyndi Peltonen claimed 54.93 percent of the vote (7,620 votes), beating Ryan Fishman and his 45.07 percent (6,253 votes).


State use tax proposal

State Proposal 14-1 also passed during the Aug. 5 election. More commonly known as Proposal 1, it is an attempt to compensate local governments for the potential loss of personal property tax revenue.

Voters approved the measure with 68.16 percent (124,561 votes), while 31.84 percent of voters opposed it (58,179 votes).

Proposal 1 takes a portion of the use tax — a 6 percent tax that the state already collects and that is similar to the sales tax — and diverts a portion of it back to local governments. The proposal also phases out the personal property tax, which provides an essential revenue stream for some municipalities across Michigan. Local governments collect personal property tax on a depreciating scale on businesses’ industrial and commercial equipment.

For some cities in Michigan, the collection of the personal property tax accounts for more than half of their property tax revenue. In 2012, a new law set into motion the eventual phasing out of the personal property tax throughout the next 10 years. Businesses with less than $40,000 in taxable value assets became exempt Jan. 1, 2014.  

Proposal 1 is an attempt to ensure cities get the necessary funding.

“The bipartisan passage of Proposal 1 is another successful step in Michigan's economic reinvention and a great victory for the small business owners and our manufacturing companies throughout our state as well as our local communities,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a statement issued the night of the election. 

“As I’ve traveled Michigan, so many small business owners have been hurt by this burdensome Personal Property Tax,” he said. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to put aside partisan differences and all work together to once again help relieve the tax burden on Michiganders. Today’s vote to remove the Personal Property Tax is one more way we are helping to create more and better jobs in Michigan.”

C & G Staff Writers Joshua Gordon and Robert Guttersohn contributed to this story.

About the author

Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski covers Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Madison District Public Schools, Lamphere Public Schools and Hazel Park Public Schools for the Madison-Park News.

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