Voters in Birmingham came out on Tuesday, November 5, to have their voices heard in a hotly contested election where eight candidates ran to fill four vacant Birmingham City Commission seats, and in Bloomfield Hills where five candidates ran unopposed. In addition, voters overwhelmingly approved a replacement operating millage for Birmingham Public Schools and Oakland Community College.
Out with the old, in with the new was the sentiment of a wide majority of voters in Birmingham, where two incumbent city commissioners who were seeking a second four-year term, Patty Bordman and Carroll DeWeese, were swept out of office as a group who termed themselves “disrupters” earned their seats at the commission table. Brad Host, Therese Longe and Clinton Baller won their races, along with write-in candidate Pierre Boutros, who was seeking a second term as commissioner.
Voter turnout in Birmingham was about 27 percent, with a total of 4,909 of the city's 17,877 registered voters casting ballots at local precincts or by absentee ballot on Tuesday. A total of 1,783 voters returned absentee ballots, accounting for about 36 percent of the overall vote. Host was the top vote getter, receiving 2,739 votes, or 17.56 percent of the vote. Longe had 17.1 percent of the vote, with 2,668 votes. Baller came in third with 2,147 votes, for 13.76 percent.
Write-in votes came to 2,135, for 13.69 percent of the total vote. The Oakland County Board of Canvassers certified on Friday, November 8, that Boutros received 2,111 votes, making him the fourth highest vote getter. Boutros ran a write-in campaign after the Oakland County Elections Division found him ineligible to have his name appear on the ballot for re-election due to reporting errors from his 2016 election.
“I'm a little stunned," Longe said Tuesday evening about the election results. "I think Birmingham has really good bones, but I think we can do better and be more transparent and more responsible, and I think that's what this election was about."
“I think this just shows we're in a democracy and that the people want changes,” Host, who ran on a platform of change in the city and representing residents. “I look forward to doing their wishes. I have no agenda. It is a compliment to have the people recognize me.”
"I think it shows that Birmingham voters want change in city hall," Baller said. "They weren't happy with the incumbents and voters picked the three most experienced non-incumbents and the incumbent who really merited re-election."
Boutros said he was very excited about his win.
“This is really a historic milestone – This is the first time a write-in candidate has been elected in Birmingham,” he noted. “I'm humbled by the support of the residents of Birmingham and I feel honored to represent them for the next four years.
Birmingham City Commissioners serve four-year terms. Commissioners meet twice each month, on the second and fourth Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. Commissioners are paid $5 per meeting.
The four will be sworn in at the next city commission meeting on Monday, November 11, at 7:30 p.m.
Five candidates, including incumbents William Hosler, Susan McCarthy and Sarah McClure, were returned to the city commission for another two-year term, along with new candidates Bradley Baxter and Alice Buckley. A total of 1,865 votes were cast out of 3,625 registered voters in the city, of which 75 percent were cast by absentee ballot.
Bloomfield Hills City Commissioners serve two-year terms. They meet once each month, on the second Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. Commissioners are paid $5 per meeting.
The new commissioners will be sworn in next Tuesday, November 12, at 7:30 p.m.
Birmingham Public Schools
Voters in the Birmingham Public Schools district overwhelmingly approved restoring, replacing and extending the Birmingham Public Schools district operating millage.
Voters approved the millage with 8,597 votes in favor and 2,954 against.
Voters were asked whether to restore the state-expected 18-mill levy on non-homestead property for the school year, replacing the current non-homestead millage authorization to 21 mills while allowing the district to levy no more than 18 mills allowed by the state on non-homestead properties.
The disdtrict also asked voters to extend the homestead rate through 2028 without a tax rate increase for homeowners, eliminating the need for an operating millage request in 2021. The current homestead millage rate of 14.24 mills expires in 2021; however, the district only levies 7.1948 mills, a rate that has decreased over the years and is not expected to increase.
The approved millage doesn't increase current residential property tax rates.
Oakland Community College
Oakland County voters solidly approved a .7545-mill levy for the next 10 years, in an operating millage renewal.
Voters approved the county-wide millage by 133,134 votes in favor and 50,825 votes against.
The approved millage includes a 10-year operating renewal, from 2022 to 2031. It is a renewal of a 2010 operating millage which expires with the 2021 tax levy.