Anti-tax group concedes defeat in SMART recount

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
A SMART bus travels along Main Street near 11 Mile Road in Royal Oak on Friday, June 29, 2018.

A citywide bus service is proposed by city commissioners and will reach the November  ballot which includes two new fixed routes along Crooks and Coolidge to the downtown as well as along 13 Mile, Campbell and 11 Mile to the downtown Royal Oak.

(Max Ortiz/The Detroit News)2018

The Michigan Taxpayers Alliance has withdrawn its request for a recount of the Aug. 7 SMART millage vote in Macomb County, which passed by just 39 of the 155,000 votes cast, group chairman and Macomb County Commissioner Leon Drolet announced Thursday.

“With only 25 percent of the recount left, it was clear the previously certified election results would not be reversed," Simon Haddad, vice chairman of the group, said in a statement. 

With about 75 percent of the vote counted, the group opposing the SMART millage had picked up only three votes. 

Drolet, in conceding the recount, again called the tight millage vote a "golden opportunity" that was missed to seek out what he calls "cost-effective alternatives" to the bus line.

"I just didn't see a trend" that would justify continuing the recount, Drolet said Thursday. "We needed about 65 percent of the (changed votes) to go our way, and we were getting about 50 percent. If we thought there was a 2 percent chance of success, we'd have stuck it out."

Drolet said the group will be refunded for the precincts that haven't yet been recounted, which is about 25 percent of them. He said, given the trend of the recount up to now, that he didn't want to waste any more time or money. 

"The math wasn't there," Drolet said. "It became apparent we weren't going to make up that margin."

Michael Grix, a spokesman for the Macomb County Clerk's elections division, confirmed the money for the unrecounted precincts would be returned.

Still, Drolet believes that the close margin of the vote, and the downward margin of victory for recent SMART millages in Macomb, is a trend that elected officials would ignore at their peril.

"There are big-money mass transit elites who think they can impose their vision on transit on others," Drolet said. "Voters are no longer being duped."

"The SMART tax passed in Macomb by 65 percent eight years ago, by 60 percent four years ago, and by 50.001 percent this year," Drolet said in the statement. "The 2016 Regional Transit tax plan got clobbered in Macomb. The trend is obvious — voters are increasingly aware traditional mass transit is a poor value for suburban communities. I am committed to work with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel to find better ways to serve Macomb County's transit needs — better for both taxpayers and riders.”

SMART officials welcomed the news Thursday.

“We are thrilled to be able to get back to concentrating on doing what we do best, which is getting 70 percent of SMART riders to work and getting people with special needs and those who are unable to afford a car to the places they need to go,” John Hertel, SMART's general manager, said in a statement. “Now that this is over, we are going to continue to build on the successful service that has resulted in an 11 percent increase in ridership.

"Also, as always, we not only look forward to our collaboration with Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, but also our renewed and promising coordination efforts with the city of Detroit.”