BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Independence Township does not want anything to do with the 2020 Regional Transit Authority millage proposal, with the Township Board unanimously passing a resolution to opt out of RTA, Jan. 7.
“What do we get for that $2 million a year,” asked Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle.
The RTA proposal would create a new 1.2 mill tax on Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Macomb county residents, collecting $3.16 billion over 20 years. Voters in the four counties will cast their ballots on Nov. 8, deciding the issue as a single entity. The funds would be used on regional transportation projects in Southeast Michigan such as bus service for seniors and residents with handicaps.
“We have five buses running around for a net cost to the township of $30,000,” Kittle said. “Where’s the other $1.97 million going to go? What do we get for it? It’s not a very good value proposition.”
In 2018, the RTA millage proposal never made it to the ballot due to the late L. Brooks Patterson’s efforts as county executive. His position was the 10 northern Oakland County townships would receive no discernible benefit to the 1.5 mills being sought, Kittle said.
“Regarding the millage, Brooks said, ‘How can I ask communities who would not receive one iota of benefit to pay into the RTA,’” said Kittle. “Per retired Deputy County Executive Bob Daddow, Independence alone would contribute an estimated $40 million over the life of the 20-year RTA millage. And because Independence is located north of M-59, it would receive zero return on our investment.”
The northernmost point where RTA would have a bus station would be Pontiac, a 17-mile drive for Clarkston-area residents, he said.
“So you’d have to get in your car, drive to Pontiac, pay for parking, take the bus to wherever you’re going because they’re not talking rail here or anything, it’s enhanced bus service, go to wherever you’re going, let’s say downtown Detroit, hop on another bus to your final destination, and then go all the way back,” said Kittle. “The purpose of the resolution is to suggest alternative options for the township in lieu of being subject to the millage.”
Options include allowing Independence Township the ability to opt out of the RTA plan, or allow residents of Independence Township the right to vote on an opt-in or opt-out option, he said.
The proposed Municipal Partnership Act in Lansing, Amendment 5229, would include an opt-out provision, Kittle said.
“We have people coming from around the globe, coming to Detroit to see just how efficient, how wonderful this transit system is,” he said. “As the northern communities start to see the benefits brought to the play because of these astute business practices, maybe we would start to see some ripple effect, then we would start to see more northern communities say, ‘Hey, you know, I want to get a piece of the action.’ We would chip in on this thing, and let it start to grow organically, instead of trying to jam a one-size-fits-all approach to this.”
Voters should call their state senators, state representatives, and County Executive David Coulter to ask about it, Kittle said.
“It’s a money grab, plain and simple. And it’s just wrong,” he said.