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Royal Oak

September 25, 2013

City attorney to draft letter on human rights ordinance

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — The City Commission requested Sept. 16 that the city attorney prepare an informational letter to voters on the human rights ordinance proposal, which will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The commission approved the resolution with a 5-1 vote. Mayor Jim Ellison was absent from the meeting.

After being drafted, the letter will come back before the commission for final approval at its Oct. 7 meeting. The commission has not yet approved any expenditure or determined through what medium it will send the letters to voters.

Last year, the commission approved a similar informational letter on the public safety millage that voters passed in November. The city sent the letter to all registered voters via the mail. City Manager Don Johnson said it cost the city $13,646 to send out the letter.

Commissioner James Rasor requested the item be added to the agenda because of what he sees as the large amount of misinformation on the ordinance he has read in letters published in various media outlets.

Mayor Pro Tem David Poulton was the lone vote against drafting a human-rights-ordinance letter, and some commissioners who voted for it expressed hesitancy to vote in favor of the letter at the next meeting.

The proposed ordinance prohibits “discrimination based upon actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, height, weight, condition of pregnancy, marital status, physical or mental limitation, source of income, family responsibilities, sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.”

The City Commission originally passed the ordinance in March.

A month later, the city received enough petition signatures to have the ordinance blocked and sent back to the commission, which it then decided to place on the November ballot for a vote.

Although he voted for Gillam to draft the letter, Commissioner Carlo Ginotti said he wasn’t convinced of there being a large amount of misinformation out there, but he would spend the next couple of weeks studying the matter.

Between the Sept. 16 and the Oct. 7 meetings, “I’m sure we’ll receive feedback — pros and cons — and it will give me a chance to see what level of misinformation or what the need for this letter is,” Ginotti said.

Commissioner Peggy Goodwin said the letter likely won’t change anyone’s minds and that people will continue to interpret the ordinance the way they choose.

“It could be a huge expense going forward,” Goodwin said.

She suggested the city post a link to the ordinance on the city’s Facebook page or other social media website.

Rasor argued it was the city’s responsibility to clarify what the ordinance actually means.

“This ordinance for Royal Oak sends a clear message to the community that we accept people the way they are created, and that we honor their rights in how they feel and the choices they make in their life and who they love,” Rasor said.

City Attorney David Gillam, while he didn’t go into great detail on what the letter’s content would be, said it would likely be short and have the actual ordinance attached to it.

Poulton called the decision a wasteful use of city resources and that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used to fuel the campaign.

“There are two sides in this campaign,” Poulton said. “They should be able to get that information out. I don’t want the city’s taxpayer money to tip the scale one way or the other.”