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  • Lisa Brody and Kevin Elliott

Finance reports filed for August ballot committees

Political committees formed in hopes of swaying election results for local ballot questions appearing on the August 6 election were required to file pre-election financial statements by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 26. Residents in Birmingham and Bloomfield Township have been barraged by mailings and signs for the upcoming elections, in Birmingham for a proposed bond to replace a parking garage, and in Bloomfield Township a public safety millage, meaning large sums of money have been raised by both proponents and opponents of each election measure. In Birmingham, voters will be asked on August 6 to permit the city to obtain up to $57.4 million in general obligation bonds in order to secure financing for demolition and rebuilding of a new parking structure to replace the N. Old Woodward structure and an extension of Bates Street, the first phase of the Woodward Bates project. Birmingham Yes, the pro-bond vote political action committee, had $180,175 in contributions, almost solely from Woodward Bates Partners, the development group that would develop and build the parking garage and mixed-use buildings if the bond vote passes and the development moves forward. It is comprised of Victor Saroki of Saroki Architecture in Birmingham; Paul Robertson of Robertson Brothers Homes in Bloomfield Hills; John Rakolta Jr., of Walbridge in Detroit, and Ron Boji of The Boji Group in Lansing. Birmingham Yes spent $120,959 on consultants, mailings, advertising, printing and other expenses. There is no cost to residents if the bonds are approved, meaning no taxes, but state law requires all municipalities to obtain approval of its residents when going for a general obligation bond because the full faith and credit of the community is being pledged. The city said the bonds will be paid off with revenues from the city's parking system, as it did in the past with all other parking structures. Birmingham has a AAA rating from both Standard & Poor's and Moody's, and over 90 percent of its bonding capacity available. Some residents object to the plan for the Woodward Bates project and its process, and others do not want change in the city. Two residents head up political action committees, Balance for Birmingham and Citizens for Responsible Government, opposed to the bond vote. Balance for Birmingham is administered by Birmingham resident Clinton Baller. Citizens for Responsible Government is administered by Birmingham resident Brad Host. Balance for Birmingham had $1,560 in contributions and a previous balance of $6063.16, for a total of $7,623.16. It had $2,922 in expenditures in the quarter, on printing and mailing and for Facebook ads, for an ending balance of $4,701.16. Citizens for Responsible Government took in $9,430 in contributions; the group had a previous balance of $761.30. The group spent $1,085.30, primarily on signs. Donations to each committee were primarily from residents of Birmingham, ranging from $25 to $1,500. Each gave to the other's committee – Host gave $250 to Balance for Birmingham, and Baller gave $250 to Citizens for Responsible Government. Host also gave $500 to his own committee. Voters in Bloomfield Township are being asked whether or not to support a 2.3-mill tax over the next 15 years through a special assessment district (SAD) dedicated to public safety departments in the township. A vocal group of residents has opposed the proposed SAD since it was first discussed in late 2018, and specifically the plan that will be before voters on August 6. Among the opposition is local township resident Don Valente, who serves as treasurer of the No SAD Tax ballot committee. Those in favor of the SAD include Bloomfield Township Treasurer Brian Kepes, who serves as treasurer of the Protect Our Police and Fire ballot committee. Financial statements filed on or before the July 26 deadline show the No SAD committee raised a total of $6,713 to mount an opposition campaign. The committee reported a total of 36 donations – the majority from local retirees and homemakers. The largest donation, $1,700, came from Valente himself, with others ranging from $8 to $500. The No SAD committee received $8,275 in contributions during the pre-election period, including 64 donations ranging from $1 to $1,000. The majority fo contributions were $100 or under, with three individuals contributing $1,000. As with the No SAD Tax committee, the majority of donors to the NO Sad committee included retirees.

Pre-election statements filed by the Committee to Protect our Police and Fire show the committee raised a total of $30,000 between June 20 to July 20. That total was reached with donations from just three donors: Kojaian Properties, James Bellinson, a Bloomfield Township businessman, and Mansour Companies of Birmingham. Each of the donors contributed $10,000.

The pro-SAD committee spent a total of $23,360 on promotions, yard signs, postage, consulting and production, printing, advertisements, as well as design and proofreading services. The No SAD Taxcommittee spent a total of $6,687.09 on postage and printing for flyers.The No SAD committee spent a total of $7,625.25, which included $4,353.64 on mailings, $1,737.40 on flyers, $1,202.04 on lawn signs, and about $55 on banking-related fees and services.

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