City Charter authors voice opposition to Dexter ballot proposal at City Council

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Dexter’s former charter members submitted a letter to residents at the Sept. 14, 2020, City Council meeting opposing a November ballot proposal to amend the city charter to require a vote of the people to authorize the sale of city property.

The Charter Commission members were elected in 2013 to write the city charter for Dexter. Voters approved the charter in November 2014 moving Dexter from a village to a city.

“I agree with the former charter commission members,” Dexter City Mayor Shawn Keough told the Council at its meeting. “I think that the language that’s proposed is way too broad and unnecessary. I’m happy to see them coming out with that position.”

The letter is below with the ballot proposal following.


City of Dexter Residents

The November ballot contains a citizen initiated proposal to amend the city charter to require a vote of the people to authorize the sale of city property along with a super majority of council (5 votes). The proposal also prevents the council from entering into leases greater than three years without similar voter approval We urge you to vote NO on this amendment. Here’s why.

The eight (there were nine but one member passed away) of us were elected in 2013 to write the charter that was approved by a vote of the people. We made lots of choices including the choice to only require a vote of the people for the sale of park or cemetery property. All other cities in Washtenaw County have the same language.

The city does not buy and sell property often but when they do it is usually for civic improvement purposes such as the Broad street redevelopment project located downtown between the bakery and the cemetery. The council’s judgment in these matters has been solid. Real estate deals are complex enough without adding what might be as much as a six month wait for the next scheduled election date to close a deal.

In addition the proposal, as written, is exceptionally broad in that it requires a vote of the people for the sale of ANY piece of property. This could include the sale of a retired truck or a plow at the end of its useful life. In the past two years the city has used an on-line auction site (GovDeals.com) designed specifically for the sale of municipal surplus to sell approximately eight pieces of equipment with an average value of $3,000 per item. Unless these items were bundled for simultaneous sale they would have required eight separate votes of the people under the proposed language. If there were no other items on the ballot the cost would be approximately $7,000 to conduct each vote.

When the citizens approved the charter the charter commission ceased to exist so we no longer have any actual authority other than to offer our opinions, but all of us still live here and continue to serve our city in a variety of ways. We are unanimous in urging a NO vote.

Phil Arbour, John Hansen, Matt Kowalski, Phil Mekas, Mary-Ellen Miller, Thom Phillips, Michael Raatz, Jim Smith


Proposal

“The city may not sell any public property unless the sale is permitted by a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote of City Council and a majority of city electors voting on the proposed sale before closing.

“The transfer or assignment of any agreement or contract for the renting or leasing of public property may be made only upon approval of the Council, but approval of such transfer shall not be subject to referendum, as long as the term of the lease is for a maximum of three years.”