Dec 29, 2006
The dual roundabouts on Lee Road in Livingston County’s Green Oak Township at the new, $100 million Green Oak Village Place mall is the No.2 story of 2006, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. This is the time of year when newspapers recap the past year with year in review stories. Reporters and editors love these because they provide copy when news is slow, sources and reporters take time off for the holidays and they are easy to write.
My problem with this particular story is it again skimmed over the bigger story on how the roundabouts were financed, and the newspaper continues to advance the false assumption that there would have been a better interchange if an amendment to the 1975 Downtown Development Authority act introduced by Chris Ward in the state House had been allowed to stand. It’s simply not true, and it’s disappointing that a talented and professional reporter continues to let that false assumption stand. The fact is if the law passed for just one person had been allowed to stand you and I would have paid for the road improvements instead of the developer who is profiting from the mall. The exact same interchange would be there, and the only difference would have been the taxpayers would have paid for it instead of Quadrants.
Officials from Quadrants had hoped to get approval to use tax money through a downtown development authority to help pay for traffic improvements for the mall.
The issue came up again in 2006 during a campaign for state House, when incumbent Republican Rep. Chris Ward of Brighton Township defended his bill that would have made the DDA easier. The bill was approved and then deleted once it became law by another bill authored by Ward.
Ward's Democratic opponent, Mike McGonegal, tried to use that episode to his advantage. Ward defended the original bill, saying a more complete intersection could have been built with the DDA money.
Regardless of that debate, arguments continue to rage as to whether, in the words of one letter to the editor in the Daily Press & Argus, the roundabouts are "idiotic," "goofy" and a "monstrosity."
Ward defended the bill by basically lying. If he had not been caught trying to sneak an amendment by that that would benefit the very thing the original DDA act was designed to help failing downtowns compete against - huge suburban shopping malls with plenty of free parking and uniform store hours – taxpayers would have been stuck with a huge bill.
Luckily, the Livingston County Board of Commissioners rejected establishing the DDA, and one of the major reasons was because the developer did not and would not have to provide any money toward the $9 million project cost. The county was already struggling to replace $3.6 million in lost state revenue sharing payments. A 20-year bond would have been sold to finance the project and taxpayers would also have had to pay an additional $200,000 a year in interest for the next 20 years. This is confirmed by veteran county Commissioner Jack LaBelle, who has been a commissioner for more than 30 years.
Another respect elected official, former Brighton Mayor and current Councilwoman Kate Lawrence, took the time earlier this month to write the paper to say the legislation “was bad policy” and it “could have caused severe negative consequences for the downtowns of all Michigan cities.”
Despite all those facts by respect elected officials the newspaper refuses to change its position on the financing on the roundabouts.