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Beline Obeid

August 30, 2012
GROSSE POINTE SHORES — A notice at city hall announcing the Aug. 29 meeting of the Move to Macomb Committee was removed after the mayor thanked and disbanded the group during last week's city council meeting.

A majority of the Grosse Pointe Shores council, at its monthly session Tuesday, Aug. 21, also didn't support the committee's unanimous recommendation to ask voters in the November election if they want to switch county jurisdictions from Wayne to Macomb.

Instead, the council chose to replace the committee's work with research to be conducted under professional guidance.

The council's decision was meant to provide residents more detail of the pros and cons of a switch, not squash inquiry or end consideration, according to Councilman Alex Ajlouni.

"I voted for incorporation of the village into a city because I wanted to have the option of whether we become part of Macomb," Ajlouni said. "I assure the public it's not a dead issue. Just because we didn't approve it today, doesn't mean it's a bad idea."

Oaktree Place

Macomb advocates intend to put the question on the ballot by petition. A drive was under way before the council's decision.

"We were hoping council would do the right thing," said Robert Lee, a committee member. "Now that they haven't, (a petition drive) is an avenue the people have to get it on the ballot."

"If there are enough signatures, this could already be on the ballot," said Mayor Ted Kedzierski.

"Sure it could," said Councilman Dan Schulte, leader of the Macomb committee.

"Anything done has to be submitted 90 days before the general election," said city attorney Mark McInerney.

"It's too late for this election," Lee said.

The effort can be tried again once each year, according to Schulte.

Cursory report

Most of the council believed the committee's final report, dated July 31, lacked enough objective information for voters to make educated choices.

"Putting it on the ballot is not something we take lightly in haphazard fashion," said Ajlouni, stressing no "aspersions" on the committee. "I would like to see someone with more experience guide us better than we have availed ourselves of."

"We can call upon more resources in Lansing and other places we haven't used and move this issue further for examination and discussion," said Councilman Bruce Bisballe.

Shores residents can seek Macomb or Wayne jurisdiction because the city lies in both counties.

The committee's main reason for recommending the bulk of the Shores join it's northern section within Macomb is a 4 mill savings in property taxes.

Savings amount to $387 per $100,000 in taxable property value.

"We've done extensive research," Schulte said. "The five-person committee unanimously approved the idea of putting it on the ballot."

In a letter to the council, resident Robert Nutter claimed parts of the report were "incomplete and or misleading."

He wrote, "At this time, all the facts, short-term and long-term, financial and tangible, have not been presented to the residents to make a long-term, viable decision. Impulsive, short-term decisions are not a solution for the long-term future."

"A lot of people are looking for absolute guarantees," Schulte said. "This is like a marriage. You don't get one."

GP public schools

Requested assurances include a switch wouldn't jeopardize the Shores' inclusion in the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

Schulte has said repeatedly it wouldn't, citing his conversation with the attorney general at the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.

"The school issue has been answered several times," Lee said. "The only real unanswered question is the maintenance of the seawall."

"We should seek an attorney general opinion regarding school boundaries to make sure there's no questions, at least at the state level, that the Grosse Pointe school system would not be upset by a boundary change," Kedzierski said.

Attorney general opinions must be requested by a state legislator or official.

State Rep. Timothy Bledsoe, D-City of Grosse Pointe, "is working on it," according to McInerney.

Macomb suit

Many advocates of realignment cite recent revelations of political corruption, patronage and fiscal waste in Wayne County.

Likewise, Councilwoman Kay Felt is concerned the Macomb County executive could obtain "unfettered" authority and act without checks and balances.

"There are open questions," Felt said.

She referred to Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel's lawsuit, filed in February, against the board of commissioners.

The suit concerns whether the new county charter transfers "all administrative duties to the executive" or gives the "commission absolute authority over every business transaction," according to a statement by Hackel at the time.

"I'd like to see the outcome of that before we put this on the ballot," Felt said. "It's something people need to understand."

County votes

No matter what a majority of the Shores' nearly 2,400 registered voters say, the decision rests with the nearly 2 million combined voters of Wayne and Macomb counties.

"The questionshall not become effective unless it is approved by a majority of the qualified electors voting thereon in each county affected," according to the Adjustment of County Boundaries Act of 1974.

The Pointes' Wayne County Commissioner, Tim Killeen, D-Detroit, predicted earlier this year opposition to letting the Shores and its tax proceeds heading to Macomb.

Schulte, campaigning for state representative, said earlier this summer a county switch could be achieved through legislative action. Likewise a court injunction.

"There are routes through legislative and judicial appeal if we're turned down by voters of Wayne County," Lee said.

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