CHICAGO -- Robert Ficano, long-time head of Wayne County, the junk-rated county that includes Detroit and is teetering on the edge of its own state takeover, lost his re-election bid Tuesday to a former Detroit chief of police.
Also in Tuesday's election, Detroit-area voters approved a handful of tax increases for cash-strapped local governments, allowing two cities to avoid a financial emergency and the Detroit Public Library to remain open. Statewide, voters approved a proposition that will phase out an unpopular business tax.
Ficano's loss marks a rare defeat for an incumbent Wayne County official. Former Wayne County Sheriff and Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans beat out 11 candidates in the Democratic primary with 44% of the vote, and heads into the general election as the expected winner in a heavily Democratic county. Evans said after the election he will start building a team to rebuild the county's financial position.
"Now it's time to start the process of re-engineering Wayne County," Evans said after the election, according to local reports.
Ficano's defeat comes after 32 years as an elected official. He was recently been engulfed by problems tied to a $200 million bond-funded jail that was to built in downtown Detroit but later abandoned amid cost overruns. After conceding the race, Ficano said he would still complete the jail and follow through with a deficit elimination plan that recently gained state approval.
Statewide, voters approved a proposition that will phase out the personal property tax, levied on equipment owned by businesses and manufacturers. Proposition 1 allows for the state to replace the lost revenue, which goes to local governments, by diverting a piece of the state's use tax.
Gov. Rick Snyder helped craft and pass the legislation pushing for the personal property tax elimination last winter.
The elimination of the tax will make Michigan more attractive to businesses, said Snyder in a speech the morning after the election. It's the second major business tax eliminated under the Republican governor's term.
Voters approved a 10-year tax increase for the Detroit Public Library that's expected to raise $38 million in the first year. Library officials had warned they would be forced to close if the measure was defeated.
Mount Clemens residents passed an amendment that allows the city to raise its maximum property tax rate to 20 mills from 15 mills for general fund and public safety purposes. The move will help the city avoid a financial emergency, which the mayor warned two weeks ago could be on the horizon.
Voters in the city of Eastpointe supported a millage increase renewal that local officials also said would help stave off a financial emergency but not solve its long-term problems.
Voters in the tri-county Detroit region also approved a property tax increase for the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, or Smart, bus system. The tax hike will raise $28 million annually for the next four years. The authority will use the money to close an operating deficit and replace many of its aging buses.