Berkley vote backs old logo but city pushes new ‘brand’

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Berkley — This Oakland County suburb’s friendly motto is “We Care,” but some residents, like former city official Maybelle Fraser, are wondering if that sentiment extends to voters’ wishes.

Berkley citizens voted by a better than 3-1 margin Tuesday to retain a city logo and seal associated with the city since 1961 “unless approved by the voters of Berkley.”

The city of 15,000 residents put out an unusual press release Wednesday blaming the outcome on “low voter turnout which did not help the City of Berkley in its efforts to establish a new city brand.”

“We expected a different outcome,” Berkley Mayor Phil O’Dwyer said in the release. “Regardless of the vote, the proposed brand will be presented at the November 16th council meeting. Residents are welcome to come and see it for themselves.”

City officials have expressed concerns that Berkley’s current blue and white symbol is outdated. The logo, which depicts a church, a book, a family and the Liberty Bell, appears on city flags, signs and some vehicles.

Municipal leaders say they want to create a brand and image that’s more reflective of Berkley, circa 2015.

The news release noted that nearly 76 percent of Berkley voters Tuesday favored retaining the current logo. Of 2,010 votes cast, unofficial totals show 1,524 voted to retain the logo and 488 voted no.

There were 5,219 votes cast for Berkley City Council candidates and O’Dwyer, who ran unopposed for mayor, received 1,833 votes for the job, 97 percent of the total in that race. The remaining percent were write-in votes.

Berkley officials approved $24,000 to hire a Lansing-based consulting group, MessageMakers, to conduct a branding study in June and obtained community input “through an online survey and two focus groups.”

The plan was for the subsequent logo, tagline and artwork to be used on the city’s website, street signage, social media and other official city communications. Officials envisioned a new brand would convey a unified image, bring the community together and reflect the qualities that make Berkley Money Magazine’s 28th “Best Place to Live,” according to Money Magazine.

But enter Maybelle Fraser, 84, a 69-year resident who was Berkley’s mayor in 1995-97 and served on City Council from 1989-93. Fraser collected enough signatures to get the question of retaining the logo before voters.

“They (council) approved a $24,000 study to see what it (logo) should be,” said Fraser. “Their plan was never announced, they just slipped it through. ... I thought it was something that citizens should know about so they could become involved. Don’t you want your residents involved in your city's identity?”

Fraser lamented, “They don’t even know what they want but said it will be ‘something to represent those who live in Berkley,’ ” she said. “Well, excuse me, I’m still here and I think the logo is just fine and identifies who we are: family, school, worship and freedom.”

The city’s current logo was designed by Berkley High senior Gary Ostendorf in 1961 and selected by city officials and veterans organizations in a contest.

Fraser said the plan to dump the logo was spearheaded by former city manager Jane Bais-DiSessa, who left Berkley after 14 years to take a job as deputy mayor in Pontiac.

“I was very happy at how residents voted Tuesday until I heard this news today,” Fraser said Wednesday. “I guess some of us will plan on attending the meeting later this month to see what happens next.”

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

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