SMART Renewed in all 3 counties! (Barely)

It’s official, SMART did win it’s renewal vote in all three counties!

Thanks and congrats to everyone who supported this critical service!

What? You didn’t know it was still a question?

Oakland and Wayne County communities supported SMART with more than 70% support so their victory was clear election night. But in Macomb, the results were split almost 50/50. And despite earlier reports of a narrow win, technically election results are only official once they are certified by the county board of canvassers, which officially happened Aug 17. As the Detroit Free Press reported:

“The SMART vote total in Macomb County was 77,500 in favor and 77,461 against — a 39-vote spread.”

If the result stands, SMART buses will keep rolling for another 4 years, taking tens of thousands of our neighbors to work, school, doctors, and elsewhere, while also helping seniors and people with disabilities stay independent!

Unfortunately the story may still not be over:

“Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance — which funded an anti-SMART campaign — said last week that a recount request likely will come from someone in the alliance if the measure passes by a slim margin in the certified results. The time frame in which to do so is six calendar days following certification of the election.”

IF there is a recount and IF it shows a negative results, SMART bus service would STOP in Macomb County, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded and adding thousands more cars to the road. We’re certainly keeping all fingers crossed that that doesn’t occur.

Because no one should lose their job because their car breaks down. 70% of SMART riders take it to work.

No senior should feel trapped at home when they retire from driving. SMART’s door-to-door Connector Service helps seniors and people with disabilities stay active and independent.

Why did it get this close?

While Macomb County has supported the SMART millage for more than 20 years, generally with 60-65% support, it is always a more narrow win there than in other counties. Partially this is because all of the County is part of SMART, so all parts of the county receive some level of service and all parts of the county vote on the tax, including the very rural northern areas. Partially this is because Macomb County is overwhelmingly suburban and rural, with nearly no urban areas, making transit service less efficient.

TRU’s Megan Owens debated Leon Drolet and others about the importance of maintaining SMART bus service

An additional reason was that there was no Vote Yes campaign for this year’s SMART millage, while there was an active vote NO campaign, led by Leon Drolet of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. In other cities, the oil baron Koch brothers have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to push anti-transit campaigns and may have here too. The no campaign spread misleading information about not only the costs and utilization about SMART but also about potential alternatives for funding and for Uber to replace bus service more cheaply.

This shows how critical campaigns are! It is essential to remind voters the importance of the service they’re being asked to fund. While SMART did some education efforts, being taxpayer funded, they cannot actively campaign or tell people to vote yes.

We at TRU were under the impression that someone else would be running a vote yes campaign and did not have funding to run a major campaign ourselves. Despite that, once we realized how vocal the no campaign was and that there was no yes campaign, we did what small outreach we could do. TRU Director Megan Owens went on Fox 2 News several times (including Fox 2 Let It Rip Sunday morning talkshow,) to counter negative messaging and remind people the importance of voting yes. We also shared social media posts to Macomb County that were seen more than 15,000 times. Our friends at Motor City Freedom Riders reminded Gratiot bus riders the importance of getting out to vote. And clearly every effort mattered!

So thanks again to everyone who voted yes and who otherwise helped support this millage renewal! Bus riders in Macomb and throughout the region thank you for ensuring that

SMART will keep rolling!