Wayne County to vote on marijuana, schools, mayors

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

A year after state voters approved Proposal 1 to legalize marijuana, residents in Allen Park and Lincoln Park will head back to the ballot box Tuesday to determine whether businesses will be allowed to sell the drug in their communities.

The proposals are among the issues to be decided and offices to be filled across Wayne County.

FILE - This March 22, 2019 file photo shows a bud on a marijuana plant at Compassionate Care Foundation's medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. U.S. retail sales of cannabis products jumped to $10.5 billion last year, a threefold increase from 2017, according to data from Arcview Group, a cannabis investment and market research firm. The figures do not include retail sales of hemp-derived CBD products. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

In Allen Park, the proposal would allow for up to three stand-alone retail stores and three "microbusinesses" that would be licensed to grow up to 150 marijuana plants, process and sell or transfer them. It requires businesses to be regulated and hold state licenses and require customers to be at least 21 years old to enter.

Nearly 57% of Allen Park voters supported the statewide legalization proposal on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot but city council subsequently opted out of allowing recreational use or sales by medical facilities.

Chad Morrow, a candidate for city council, petitioned to put the issue before Allen Park voters, saying it could aid "those who need it the most."

Morrow called the Allen Park initiative a "sensible" proposal that would generate tax revenue for the city without creating the "odor of skunk" that some critics associate with marijuana facilities.

"We did a town hall last week and there was a lady there with MS who said she spends a lot of (money) in River Rouge dispensaries because we don't have medical dispensaries," he said.

Opting back into the law would provide local governments with additional tax revenue to address other needs, said Morrow, who previously operated a medical marijuana shop in Gaylord that was raided by police in 2016. He ended up pleading guilty to two marijuana delivery charges and spent 15 days behind bars.

"Honestly, it will give people a chance not only to support the legalization but access, stores and taxation," he said. "It's not just about having stores in Allen Park but create opportunities for jobs, revitalize buildings and repurpose blighted ones and to bring in a lot of revenue." 

In other communities, the potential for an increased cost for public safety and caution in seeing how the marijuana industry develops has spurred decisions to stay out of the marijuana business.

In Lincoln Park, the proposal states it would allow the distribution of marijuana, allowing two licensed retail facilities and one licensed business for each of these categories: transporters, safety compliance, cultivation and processing. The facilities would be open no earlier than 9 a.m. and no later than 10 p.m.

Lincoln Park Councilman Michael Higgins said he has advocated for the approval of retail marijuana after last year's vote showed 64% of city residents were for it.

"People are going to be smoking more now than ever before," he said. "If it isn't to pass, the cost of our police are going to go up for having to handle the situation. We can charge up to $500 per license and use that money towards the police department whereas if you don't people are still going to be using it."

Higgins said last year, Lincoln Park Mayor Thomas Karnes decided to put together a seven-person commission, including two council members (one against retailing marijuana and one for it) to debate the issue.

"When it was all said and done, the committee was 100% for the retail of it within the city," Higgins said. "I think it should be open and regulated like a bar or party store, so many feet from a church or school."

Other Wayne County ballot issues:

  • Belleville: Ten-year, 2-mill special assessment to raise about $90,000 a year for police and fire services.
  • Garden City: Five-year, 3.5-mill renewal to raise about $1.8 million a year for police and fire services; charter amendment to split the clerk/treasurer's department into separate agencies; 10-year, 1-mill levy to fund construction of a new library building.
  • Gibraltar: A restoration of 5 mills to raise about $681,000 for sewer repairs and upkeep.
  • Plymouth: Ten-year, $12.3 million bond issue for street improvements.
  • Riverview: Amend the city charter to allow public notices to be posted on the city's website and public access cable and satellite channel instead of in newspapers.
  • Rockwood: Twenty-year, $2 million bond issue for improvements to the city's wastewater treatment plan.

School proposals

Ballot issues in the Crestwood, Dearborn, Garden City, Grosse Pointe, Melvindale-Northern Allen Park, Van Buren and Woodhaven-Brownstown school districts seek funding for operations, plus new LED lighting and furniture, revamped media centers and more security cameras.

As early as next year, Dearborn Public Schools could begin adding these and other upgrades to its buildings if voters approve a $245 million bond issue for the state’s third-largest school district.

Board members placed the measure on the November ballot to kick-start efforts aimed at boosting security and other features in the district’s 30-plus structures — some of which are approaching 100 years old. It would keep taxes at the same rate while cutting what officials estimate is a $563 million price tag for total improvements over the next decade or longer.

The Crestwood School District in Dearborn Heights is seeking a 21-mill, 16-year levy on non-homestead property that would raise $40,000 for operating purposes in 2019.

The Garden City district is requesting a 1.93-mill, five-year sinking fund renewal that would raise $1.05 million in 2021 for construction and repair of school buildings. 

Two tax requests are on the ballot for the Grosse Pointe Public Schools: a five-year renewal of 18 mills on non-homestead property and 7.8763 mills on principal residents for operations, and a 1-mill, five-year sinking fund renewal for building and technology upgrades.

Melvindale-Northern Allen Park Schools seeks a 26-year, $38.9 million bond issue for remodeling and equipping buildings, including the Baker College campus.

Van Buren Public Schools requests a 30-year, $35.5 million bond issue to erect, furnish and equip a new early childhood center, remodel school buildings, install new technology and sports fields.

Woodhaven-Brownstown School District is seeking a 0.9778-mill, 10-year sinking fund renewal.

See the unofficial list of proposals online at waynecounty.com.

Mayor's races

Voters in certain Wayne County communities will be asked to choose mayors as well as city council members and city clerks.

The ballot is a history-making one for Livonia, where candidates Maureen Miller Brosnan and Laura Toy are facing off to replace Mayor Dennis Wright, who is not running for a second term, and become the first woman to be Livonia's mayor if elected. 

In Melvindale, Mayor Stacy Bazman is finishing her second term, and one of the candidates to replace her is son Ian Striz, a law student at Wayne State University. Opposing him is councilman Wheeler T. Marsee Jr.

Other contested mayoral races: 

  • Allen Park: City council members Gail McLeod and Kevin A. Rourke are running to succeed Mayor William Matakas.
  • Flat Rock: Mark A. Hammond, a 40-year member of the city's fire department, is running against Councilman Mark Maul to replace Mayor Jonathan Dropiewski.
  • Grosse Pointe: Mayor Christopher Boettcher faces council member Sheila Tomkowiak.
  • Highland Park: Councilwoman Glenda McDonald is challenging Mayor Hubert Yopp.
  • Northville: Mayor Ken Roth is seeking re-election against Brian Turnbull.
  • Trenton: Mayor Kyle Stack is challenged by Tom Kinney and Ryan Stewart.

See the full candidate list online filed through the Wayne County Clerk's Office.


Twitter: @SarahRahal_