Friday, April 27, 2007

Timing Couldn't be Worse for High Schools Bond Proposal!

The following Guest Piece was written by a former Circuit Court Judge, the Honorable William Hampton. It was published in the Oakland Press.

I write to encourage voters in the Bloomfield Hills School District to either attend the polls on May 8 or vote by absentee ballot to defeat the $121 million bond proposal. As a former Oakland County Circuit Court judge and state representative for the Birmingham/Bloomfield District, I have been taught to consider both sides before making a decision and/or voting on a particular proposal. I have read the various articles and letters put forth by the school board president and observed the school board deliberations on the public cable channel, and remain unconvinced that we need two new high schools at this time, especially since enrollment projections at the high schools are down. In addition, considering the current state of Michigan’s economy and the millages approved for the library and Bloomfield Township campus improvements recently, the timing couldn’t be worse. The school board spent about $20,000 to have an EPIC/MRA survey conduced that indicated a majority of those polled were against the plan. I was one of those polled by telephone and felt that the questions posed were slanted to obtain a favorable vote. For example, when given the reasons why one would oppose the plan, there were a number of good reasons to oppose it, such as the selection of the May 8 election date, which were not even asked in the telephone poll. However, the fact is results of the poll were against the construction of two new high schools and the board decided to place this measure on the May 8 ballot, apparently recognizing that there has historically been a low turnout in May as opposed to November elections. In May 2006, for example, there was an 11-percent turnout versus a 70-percent turnout in November 2006. This will be the last May school board election because Bloomfield Schools has to move its elections to November next year, but they did not do so earlier this year because they wanted to place the bond issue on the May 8 ballot, recognizing many residents will probably not bother to vote. Thus, placing the issue on a ballot with a historically low turnout improves the possibility of success. I hope everyone reading this article who agrees with my opinion will vote May 8 or contact their city or township clerk to obtain an absentee ballot to vote “no” on the two high schools. Adding insult to injury of setting this huge tax increase for the May 8 election is the erroneous information provided by the district’s Community Connections newsletter, which set forth premature deadlines for applying for an absentee ballot as well as the deadline to vote by absentee ballot. The correct information is that the voter has until May 5 (not May 1) to apply for an absentee ballot in person at the city or township clerk’s office. Applications for absentee ballots are available online on the district’s Web site. I understand the state election officials have ordered the district to correct the erroneous information by first class mail, which is yet another unnecessary expense incurred by the district.

William Hampton is an attorney who lives in Bloomfield Hills.