ROYAL OAK, Mich., May 17, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- More than a dozen residents were joined by Royal Oak Mayoral Candidate Stephen Miller and commission candidate Tom Hallock today in protesting the City Center Development that was partially funded with $5.5 million in taxpayer dollars and built on a former municipal parking lot that was gifted to the developer for one dollar
The group gathered in front of city hall before taking their protest to the Royal Oak City Center site to express their anger over the no bid contract and political contributions associated with the project by Mayor Fournier and commission majority.
The protest was organized by the Take Back Royal Oak Coalition, a group of business owners, farmers and taxpayers fed up with the lack of transparency from the Royal Oak Mayor, City Commission and city manager who continue to use no-bid contracts in violation of the city charter as well as the cronyism displayed in favor of political donors to the mayor and several commissioners.
"The majority of Royal Oak's elected officials have failed to uphold their fiduciary responsibility," said Stephen Miller, a retired accountant and former city commissioner who is running for Royal Oak Mayor in November. "Mayor Fournier and the majority of the city commission have flagrantly disregarded the city charter by violating debt covenants, using no-bid contracts. The city also violated the Michigan Constitution by providing the developer with taxpayer dollars, which is prohibited as its illegal to use public funds for purely private purposes."
Miller added, the biggest fraud of all is the abuse of the Public Safety Fund, a $10 million property tax increase on residents, which passed in 2012 and renewed in 2016 creating a "cash hoard" for the city as it stopped funding public safety from the general fund and in essence did not provide additional dollars for public safety as promised.
"What occurred was a total bait and switch. Public safety hiring since 2012 only increased by 12 percent, that's 17 police officers and no fire fighters or EMS personnel. The tragedy is that 48 administrative positions have been created to work at city hall with the money raised by the giant property tax increase," said Miller. "That's not what the residents and taxpayers of Royal Oak were told, or sold, by the city when they voted for the tax increase. That money was supposed to be used to hire personnel, improve equipment and keep our emergency services team safe while they safeguard our community."
"It's unsettling to see city leaders celebrating this development today," said Tom Hallock, former Royal Oak Commissioner who chaired the City of Royal Oak Planning Commission for many years and is now running for commissioner in November. "Today's event is the result of bad politics, favoritism and taxpayer dollars to developers, architects, construction firms and attorneys in bed with these politicians. Royal Oak residents deserve much better than the Chicago-style politics they are getting."
Hallock added that the city has never answered questions about the lack of handicap parking, site planning that didn't involve surrounding businesses, nor why no formal traffic and parking studies were conducted.
In his annual State of the City speech on July 16, 2017, Mayor Michael Fournier said, "The office building could bring more than 700 well-paid jobs to downtown Royal Oak and have an annual economic impact of $234 million and help diversify our tax base and stabilize our downtown."
Erika Sykes, a 14-year resident of Royal Oak who joined other concerned citizens at the protest today said, "I'm not against development, but eliminating a half million dollar per year revenue-generating city parking lot and selling it for a $1 to a developer was a bad idea. This was prime real estate given away for an office building that was supposed to generate significant taxes for the city, but that's changed with tax exempt Henry Ford Health System becoming the sole occupant of the building with an equity transfer lease arrangement."
The Take Back Royal Oak Coalition includes commercial property owners, business owners, resident taxpayers and farmers alarmed about Royal Oak City Hall's lack of transparency, no-bid contracts and favoritism to political donors. The group started with many of the businesses involved in lawsuits against the city over the City Center Development and has grown to expose the unlawful actions by the Royal Oak City Manager, Mayor and City Commission Majority.
SOURCE The Take Back Royal Oak Coalition