Mayor puts the brakes on elections billboard contract

Joel Kurth
The Detroit News

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is putting the brakes on a controversial campaign to spend nearly $1 million reminding residents to vote.

Four days after The Detroit News reported that the cost of elections billboards is doubling, Duggan on Monday pulled the contract that was to be submitted to the city’s Financial Review Commission.

Duggan wants “further review” of the no-bid contract, said his spokesman John Roach. The board was created after Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy and oversees the city’s finances and contracts.

The contract would have paid International Outdoor of Farmington Hills $900,000 over three years. That’s up from $413,000 the previous three years.

International Outdoor has had the contract for a total of six years.

Its president, Randy Oram, told The News costs are increasing because more money is needed to educate voters after the state Legislature in December voted to end straight-party voting.

The city’s elections director, Daniel Baxter, agreed, noting that 78 percent of Detroiters typically voted straight ticket.

The Detroit City Council approved the deal despite questions from some, including council President Pro Tem George Cushingberry. He questioned whether billboards work, since turnout is typically low in Detroit.

The use of such billboards can be controversial because they often feature photos of elected officials. Some contend they give them taxpayer-funded advertising.