Jackson's hottest August 5 vote centers on an unusual controversy

Aug 1, 2014

Jackson voters face a controversial ballot question next week.

Jackson residents had to collect and dispose of their own leaves last year, after the city had to cancel the annual fall leaf pick up for budgetary reasons.
Jackson residents had to collect and dispose of their own leaves last year, after the city had to cancel the annual fall leaf pick up for budgetary reasons.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

They will decide Tuesday if they want to pay a new fee to have their leaves collected.

In 2011, the Jackson City Council created a fee to pay for leaf pick up, street cleaning and other things needed to be done to keep the city’s storm drains clear of debris. The fee raised over $1 million annually. 

But Jackson County government and local businessmen took the city to court.      

Last year, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against the city. The court ruled the fee was actually an illegal tax. That forced the city to cancel is regular leaf pick-up and street cleaning.

Derek Dobies is a Jackson city councilman. He expects voters will support a new tax to pay for leaf pickup and street cleaning on Tuesday.

Jackson City Councilman Derek Dobies says street cleaning and leaf pick-up are “not only services residents want but also have a positive impact on the environment. ”
Jackson City Councilman Derek Dobies says street cleaning and leaf pick-up are “not only services residents want but also have a positive impact on the environment. ”
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“Things that are not only services residents want but also have a positive impact on the environment,” says Dobies. 

But Jackson businesses oppose the new tax.

Mindy Bradish-Orta is the president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.

“If the voters allow this city to do this, it’s a blank check, with unlimited potential down the road and (will) never be voted on again,” says Bradish-Orta. 

“If the voters allow this city to do this, it’s a blank check," says Mindy Bradish-Orta, president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce
“If the voters allow this city to do this, it’s a blank check," says Mindy Bradish-Orta, president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

She fears some Jackson businesses may opt to leave town rather than pay the storm water fee.   

It is unclear what will happen if Jackson voters say no to the storm water fee on Tuesday. 

“If it fails we’ll have to come up with some other sort of solution to cleaning our streets. But it will be tough,” says Dobies.