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Letter to the Editor: Ambiguous, Deceptive Ballot Language for DIA Tax Should Be Voted Down

Here's why this letter writer is voting "no" for the Oakland County Art Institute Authority millage — and why she says you should, too.

Dear Editor:

When you go to vote, you may think that the millage request below is for a facility or facilities in Oakland County. Well, it is NOT for an Oakland County facility. It's for the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

"OAKLAND COUNTY ART INSTITUTE AUTHORITY MILLAGE The Oakland County Art Institute Authority established pursuant to Public Act 296 of 2010 to allow for continuing support of art institute services for the students, residents and visitors of Oakland County. The law allows the Authority to seek authorization from the electors to levy a tax of not more than 0.2 mil l(20 cents per $1,000 of taxable value) on real and personal property to provide revenue to an art institute services provider for this purpose. Accordingly, to continue providing art institute services to benefit the residents of Oakland County, shall a 0.2 mill on all of the taxable property located within the County be imposed for a period of ten (10) years, being years 2012 through 2021? It is estimated that if approved and levied, this new millage would generate approximately $9,847,191 in 2012."

Contrast this with the SMART renewal millage for opt-in communities on the same ballot and you'll see that it is very clear that SMART will be the recipient of the funds.

The DIA millage should have been worded in a similar fashion and the only logical reason for leaving that information out is to fool voters. There are plenty of reasons to vote against this millage but ambiguous, deceptive ballot language tops them all.

Furthermore, this was sold as a 'regional' millage which in the past has meant that all three counties must independently pass the ballot question for it to go into effect. Not true this time - the Oakland County Commissioners defeated a resolution that would have clarified that if it failed in any of the other counties, the overall millage would fail.

This action deliberately leaves Oakland County in a position to be the only county funding the DIA if it passes there but fails in the other two counties.
Six Republicans (Potts - Birmingham, Gingell - Orion Township, Hoffman - Highland Township, Crawford - Novi, Middleton - Indepencence Twp., Dwyer - Farmington Hills) voted with the Democrats to ensure that if this passes only in Oakland, we will be the only taxpayers paying for the DIA.

Other reasons to vote ‘no’ on this millage:

  • This should have been placed on the November ballot when more residents will vote.
  • Oakland County should not pick up the tab for the bad management of facilities ownedby other governmental units.
  • The county will have no oversight ability to audit how the money is spent.
  • The DIA raised $170 million for an 8 year remodeling project constructed during Michigan’s worst economic era in decades with little concern for ensuring revenuefor future operating costs.
  • What happens to the collection if an Emergency Manager takes over the city? Is there a legally binding Trust to protect the collection from being sold?
  • The zoo which is owned by another governmental unit currently has a millage and ifthe DIA millage passes, I guarantee you that similar millage requests will come forward.

I’m voting ‘NO’ for THE OAKLAND COUNTY ART INSTITUTE AUTHORITY MILLAGE (which is really for the Detroit Institute of Arts).

Please join me.

Sue Ann Douglas, Rochester, 18-Year Oakland County Commissioner, Retired

Send letters to the editor to Kristin Bull at kristin.bull@patch.com. Letters may be edited for clarity. Please include a phone number with your submission for verification purposes.

laurie puscas June 13, 2012 at 02:08 PM
The DIA plays an inportant role in our society. How well we support the arts says something about who we are as a society. I donated to the DIA for years unil they lost millions in a ponsey scheme. It is important that organizations such as the DIA, Detroit Science Center, etc. are run withh fiscal responsibilty. This is my concern regarding the ballot proposal. I don't think you should ask for people's money and not give oversight authority. I was sorry to see that this initiative wasn't designed similar to the one for Cobo Hall that gave input and oversight to the counties. As much as I am a strong proponent for the arts, this is a bad ballot proposal and I will be voting NO.
Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki June 13, 2012 at 11:42 PM
I encourage everyone to review this Q/A about the ballot initiative http://wchbnewsdetroit.com/2410026/art-is-for-everyone-detroit-institute-of-arts-q-a/. The millage amounts to $15 per year for every $150,000 of a home's fair market value. Public funds raised from this millage will only be used to cover the DIA's operating expenses - i.e. keep the museum open. It won't be used to fund the museum's endowment. It allows the DIA to focus on fundraising among the private sector to increase its endowment so that eventually the DIA will no longer need public funds for operation & maintenance. The benefits of the millage include free general admission to residents living in the counties that approve it. That's an incredible advantage to those who might otherwise forgo a trip to the museum. Other benefits include increased operating hours & days, the funding of educational programs. The DIA is a tremendous asset to our region, state & country. The millage, if approved, saves jobs in Michigan by staying open. The DIA contributes economically to the entire region by purchasing local vendor goods & services, adding jobs through capital improvements, & through visitors & employees who support local businesses, restaurants, pay taxes, etc. The economic impact of arts & culture on Michigan tourism is $2.08 billion. That's more than golf, skiing, hunting, fishing, boating & attending sporting events combined.
David Gutknecht June 14, 2012 at 05:59 PM
"The economic impact of arts & culture on Michigan tourism is $2.08 billion. That's more than golf, skiing, hunting, fishing, boating & attending sporting events combined." While that number may be true, which I doubt (http://www.michigan.org/PressReleases/Detail.aspx?ContentId=4ec61d7f-bb2e-46fc-9dab-d5589ae690a9), the $2.08 billion is not provided by the DIA alone. From your link: If a 0.2 mil levy is successful in all three counties, how much revenue would be generated by each county? 0.2 mil would raise approximately $23 million: $10 million in Oakland County, $8 million in Wayne County, and $5 million in Macomb County. In the 2011–12 fiscal year, the DIA spent the following on vendor goods and services: Wayne County, $4,394,873; Oakland County: $2,295,777; Macomb County: $415,555. Will there be oversight of how the tax money is spent? What is the mechanism? Will annual reporting be required? Yes. The arts authorities in each county, whose members are appointed by the commissioners and county executives, will ensure DIA compliance and an annual audit will be required. Oakland county will pay the most, but get the least through local businesses and employment. So the question really is, How much is the DIA worth to you? Enough to add taxes across every homeowner in the county or enough for you to individually donate to the DIA.
Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki June 14, 2012 at 09:41 PM
For more on the statistic and the report issued by ArtServe Michigan this past January that speaks to the two billion dollar economic impact: http://articles.petoskeynews.com/2012-02-20/cultural-tourism_31081246 and here: http://www.crookedtree.org/index.php?catid=513. The DIA is one of many important cultural institutions that benefit our region and state and one of many that contribute to that two billion dollar impact. What is Michigan and the tri-county area willing to risk in lost jobs, tourism revenue and the like if we begin to lose our cultural institutions like the DIA? Not only would Detroit sink further into obscurity if that happened, no one will want to relocate to metro Detroit or raise a family here without cultural attractions. The Detroit Zoo raises funds from a millage. How many times can you see the same aardvark? Many as it turns out and people, myself included, love to visit the zoo. How many times can you see a rare Renoir or Van Gogh painting from Europe? Not many and yet the DIA provides all of us that opportunity, not to mention arts programs and education. Our public schools are losing arts and sports programs across the board and more funding cuts are coming. The DIA, as do many of our cultural institutions, helps supplement those losses and keeps our students informed and inspired.
Sue June 20, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Art Serve Michigan's goal has been to bring the arts community together to support the arts community. It looks to me as if it was formed to push millages for arts facilities and was active in promoting the failed Arts Tax ballot questions. I'd much rather see an independent unbiased opinion of the economic value of these facilities.
Savvy Shopper July 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I think it is important to contribute to the DIA as a regional asset. The DIA provides education and culture to all people. It is important to teach our children about the world and it's art at an early age. The city of Detroit contributes to the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Authority, even though there is no Metropark location in Detroit. If $15 is too much to spend per year on a jewel like the DIA for you then maybe you can cut down on your spending at the Hall Road strip mall - which provide very minimal culture and education. The money dedicated to the DIA through this millage would be controlled by a Regional Authority similar to the Metroparks Authority and not controlled by the City of Detroit. Once the facts are presented honestly, I think more people will support this DIA Millage!
NO Dia Tax July 29, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Let's get the FACTS out there as the previous posters have NOT told the truth. FACT - the DIA, Detroit Institute of Arts or even the WORD "museum" is NOT even mentioned in the millage's ballot language, and that's intentional. There is no guarantee that the money will even GO to the DIA although that is everyone's assumption. FACT - there is no "regional authority" - EACH COUNTY has its own authority and its unclear how or even IF they would interact. They are correct in that the DIA is no longer "controlled" by the city of Detroit - it is simply OWED by them, as is all the art plus all the newly acquired art, including the $50M in art they just acquired in 2011 per their own tax filing. All of those assets are subject to the whims of an EFM or a bankruptcy court judge in the event of a Chapter 9 filing. FACT The Detroit Zoo millage is HALF of what this millage requests. FACT - each county gets 2 member spots on a board of 44 members. That's a token with no real authority or voting majority to have any other than casual influence on policy and direction. FACT Opportunities exist TODAY for free admission for ALL - not just residents of certain counties. The DIA's own figures claim attendance at 400,000 annually. That's less than 10% of the tri-county population, but the other 90% are being asked to pay for it. Perhaps Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki's friends and neighbors in Rochester Hills can afford it. CAN YOU ?
NO Dia Tax July 29, 2012 at 04:42 PM
"maybe you can cut down on your spending at the Hall Road strip mall" REALLY? Isn't that the most pompous and demeaning argument you've ever heard? It never ceases to amaze me how other people want to tell me what I should be doing with my own money. This millage is no exception. PLEASE - support the DIA - or any other cultural or charitable cause - with your voluntary donation, if you choose to and can afford it. WHAT does that decision possibly have to do with me, or the other 90% of tri-country residents who, for whatever reason, don't patronize your favorite cause? Arrogance at its best.

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