Citizen Opinion: Ambiguous, Deceptive Ballot Language for DIA Tax Should Be Voted Down

By Sue Ann Douglas, 18 Year Oakland County Commissioner – Retired

When 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).


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 mill (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 2 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 owned by 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 revenue for 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 if the 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.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at

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