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My Way

Give NOTA a break

January 29, 2014 - I'll be honest, I've never liked the way Downtown Development Authorities are funded in Michigan.

In a nutshell, DDAs get their money by capturing tax dollars from other entities' millages. It's very parasitic.

Every year, a portion of the millages that downtown property owners pay for public services such as the library, the fire department and parks and recreation goes to help fund the DDA.

That's always bothered me because that money should go to the entities it was meant for, not get skimmed by the DDA.

If a property tax is for a specific purpose, it should fund that purpose and nothing else, especially when it comes to voter-approved millages.

To me, DDAs should be funded through their own dedicated millages, voted on and paid by downtown property owners. That would be fair and create a system of direct accountability.

But that's not going to happen anytime soon, so I might as well get to the point of this column.

If the North Oakland Transportation Authority gets the green light from the Oxford, Addison and Orion township boards to place a millage request on the August ballot, the respective DDA boards and village councils in Oxford and Lake Orion should vote to exempt this new tax from DDA capture if they possess that authority.

Attorney Bob Davis, who represents Addison Township and Oxford Village, is looking into this matter.

So, why am I requesting this dispensation?

Well, first of all, NOTA is an extremely valuable service that provides low-cost transportation to senior citizens, disabled individuals and low-income folks living in the three townships and their respective villages.

For those who cannot drive due to age, health issues or lack of transportation, "NOTA is a godsend," as Oxford resident Ann Eickhoff recently told me.

NOTA takes them to grocery stores. NOTA takes them to jobs and job training. NOTA takes them to medical appointments. NOTA takes them to church.

In short, NOTA gives these people the freedom to access the necessities in their lives. It gives independence to those who would normally be trapped in their houses.

To me, that's much, much more important and valuable to the community than the functions performed by any DDA. That's not a slam. It's just a statement of where my priorities are as a human being.

Secondly, NOTA needs every penny it can get from this millage should the voters approve it.

NOTA is by no means one of these lavish government operations that routinely wastes money on things like overpaid administrators, luxurious facilities and fancy events.

From what I've observed, NOTA is run in an extremely efficient, conservative and responsible manner. There are absolutely no frills. It's just about getting residents from Point A to Point B and back again.

The only reason NOTA is seeking this millage is because it's going to lose $425,000 in federal grant funds and it wants to maintain its existing level of service as opposed to cutting bus routes by more than 50 percent.

NOTA's not looking to build an empire or some shiny new monument to ego. It's just looking to keep its vehicles on the road, so it can keep helping people.

It's for these reasons that I'm asking the DDA boards and village councils in Oxford and Lake Orion to exempt the NOTA millage from capture if that's within their power.

I'm asking these boards to do the right thing and put the basic needs of its most vulnerable citizens first.

I'm asking these boards to show some compassion and help their fellow man.

I don't think that's asking too much.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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