By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – A controversial charter amendment has passed, but it may face a battle over its legality.
Voters approved a proposal to amend the city charter to ask for a vote of residents before the city council may issue bonds. The measure passed 10,462 to 2,979.
The measure was put on the ballot after a campaign by resident group Restore Allen Park, in which residents collected more than 1,000 signatures in support of it.
Group representative Tim O’Brien said that the amendment was an answer to the city’s failed Unity Studios deal, for which it issued nearly $30 million in bonds that after Unity left the complex after a year, had to be paid off from the general fund.
“The suburban Detroit community had its 15 minutes of show biz fame three years ago when the mayor and council borrowed $30 million to use as venture capital for a movie studio,” he said. “ The project went the way of the state subsidies that inspired it, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the bonds and the city now under the control of an emergency manager sent by the governor to clean up the fiscal wreckage.”
But before voters even went to the polls, its legality was questioned, with Gov. Rick Snyder saying the it violates state law by limiting the city council’s power.
O’Brien said the group is unconcerned about possible challenges to the amendment, as it was modeled after an unsuccessful petition circulated recently in Ann Arbor that did not get on the ballot there but the legality of which was validated by then-Attorney General Mike Cox.
O’Brien said he doubts the city council and mayor would challenge the amendment.
“The only ones with standing to challenge our charter amendment would be the mayor and city council,” he said. “And I doubt even these elected officials are so politically foolhardy as to sue their own constituents over something supported by almost 80 percent of them.”
Mayor William Matakas said the city has received opinions from the county and state election boards that say the amendment is unenforceable. Now that an emergency financial manager is handling the city’s financing, he said, the charter amendment is moot.
“I don’ think its going to have any real effect and certainly not on the EFM,” Matakas said.