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Wednesday, July 6,2011

Millage no-shows

Why two Lansing City Council candidates didn’t make it out to vote on May 3

by Andy Balaskovitz
Two candidates for Lansing City Council seats didn’t vote in the special May 3 millage election — one because he was “frustrated” and had “work schedule” issues, and the other because he didn’t change his voter registration in time.

Philip Damico and Thomas Stewart, who are seeking the 1st Ward and an At-Large seat, respectively, didn’t vote in the election, which saw a 16 percent turnout.


Damico said he was against it and Stewart would have voted yes. The millage failed 52 percent to 48 percent.


“There was a bit of confusion,” said the 36-year-old Damico, who is a full-time laboratory technician at Sparrow Hospital, referring to how the millage money would actually have been spent. He said his “work schedule” also played a role in his not voting — “that was my fault.”


Damico is the only 1st Ward candidate who was against the millage proposal, based on questionnaires e-mailed to candidates by City Pulse in June.


“As far as I was concerned, there was no clarification on where the money was going. If you’re going to do something, make it clear on where the money in the millage is going,” he said. “I’m all for public safety but I would like to see leaders take a hit first before asking voters.”


The ballot language said the new revenue would be spent “for the purpose of funding essential services, including police, fire, and local road maintenance.” At its May 2 meeting the day before the election, the City Council unanimously approved a nonbinding resolution that basically gave the Council’s word it would have spent the projected $8.5 million in new taxes on police, fire and roads as Mayor Virg Bernero outlined in his budget proposal.


Damico was asked if he was a frustrated voter, how did he expect other frustrated voters to come out and vote for him?


Damico said he shares their concerns. He wants voters to know: “I’m experiencing what people feel. If I’m angry and people are angry, I’m (going to be) in there to get some answers.”


Asked if he could go back in time and vote again, Damico said: “Yes, definitely.”


Stewart said he didn’t switch his voter registration information in time.


“I attempted to, but my registration hadn’t been changed in time,” said the 29-year-old Stewart, who grew up in Bath and recently moved to the city. “I wasn’t quick enough on the draw. I missed it by two days. Certainly it was not purposeful.”


City Clerk Chris Swope said April 4 was the deadline to have changed such information.


Stewart said he would have supported the millage.


“I would rather err on the side of caution and keep police and fire jobs and maybe get money to repair our roads,” he said.


Information on which Council candidates voted in the May 3 election came from the City Clerk’s Office. Tuesday was the deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 2 primary.


Candidate drops out


1st Ward candidate Sarah Surface-Evans has dropped out of the race, even though her name will still appear on the August primary ballot. She announced the news on Facebook and in an e-mail to City Pulse June 16. Surface-Evans, an anthropology professor, said she landed a new job and won’t have time to serve on Council: “The demands of this position, along with family commitments, are such that I do not feel that I could give adequate time and energy to the City Council,” she wrote.


Swope said her name will still appear on the ballot because she did not withdraw from the race before the May 13 deadline to do so.

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