The issue of an elected official being in default to the city has once again come up.
A city council candidate filed a complaint about an incumbent councilmcmber seeking re-election, who has repeatedly fallen behind on property taxes and water bills.
The city charter says that, if a city official owes the city money – or any other government entity – that person becomes disqualified for office.
Or does it?
We have addressed this issue before, and noted that the language in the city charter is fuzzy at best.
There are some who argue that, as soon as an official falls behind on property taxes or water bills, they are in default.
And others say it only kicks in during election day, once the ballots are counted.
There is also confusion over who starts the process of removal: Is it the city clerk? The city attorney? The council? The city manager?
The charter section addressing this issue does not provide a process for removal.
Also, what happens if someone accidently misses a payment, such as a water bill? Is there no tolerance for those who accidently skip a bill but make it up later?
And also, is this charter section even constitutional? After all, it’s not against the law to be broke and owe the city money.
Some might even argue that if voters want to elect someone who can’t manage their own home finances, well, that’s the voters’ decision to make.
There are simply too many loose ends in that section of the charter. We have suggested this before, and we still think it’s a good idea: Either propose a charter change to tighten the language, or get rid of it – especially considering it appears that past city officials have been reluctant to enforce it.
Also, switching gears here, another issue arose regarding the same council candidate who has filed a defaulter claim against a councilmember.
It’s about the issue of whether the city should allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate here in town.
A few years ago, the city council had been on course to adopt a zoning law that would allow such operations. And then — seemingly out of nowhere — a backlash arose.
All of a sudden, some members of the community, mostly from the Yemeni and Bengali communities, objected to allowing dispensaries for fear they could somehow influence kids.
Their thinking is that having them operate in open and plain sight would be a bad influence.
There is a way around this.
The city could zone dispensaries into more secluded sections of town – such as industrial areas. These are places where few people walk by.
Why do we feel this is an important issue to continue considering?
There is a huge pool of tax monies that are available only to communities that allow dispensaries and grow operations.
Steve Neavling of the Metro Times recently wrote an insightful story on this issue.
We urge everyone to read it, and reconsider what’s at stake for Hamtramck.
Considering that the city is desperately looking for new revenue streams to keep city services afloat, this is a serious subject – one that Hamtramck cannot afford to squander.
Just because there is a vocal opposition to this issue doesn’t mean city officials should have a kneejerk response and cave in. Sometimes leadership requires making seemingly unpopular decision for the betterment of the community.
We guarantee you that, once dispensaries and grow operations are allowed to do business here, the community will hardly notice a thing, and folks will move on.
May 24, 2019