City Hall Insider … 10/20/23

What is our City Council up to these days? We have the highlights of the latest council meeting.

By Charles Sercombe
The city council met on Oct. 10, and all councilmembers were in attendance.
Police Chief Anne Moise discussed an $800,000 federal grant the department is receiving. The funding will be spent on a training program for officers to de-escalate tensions when on police calls.
The department will be working with Eastern Michigan University.
Moise said this program is “very exciting.”
During public comment, Bill Meyer said he is now back after missing the last several council meetings.
As for the situation in Gaza, Meyer said he has previously visited there, and he was “treated like an honored guest.” He said that Israel controls everything there, and its rightwing conservative government has created “extreme conditions” for Palestinians.
Moving on, he said that Hamtramck is now a majority Muslim city, and that some of the people who speak at council meetings do not represent the population make-up of the city.
Greg Kirchner, of Hamtramck Public TV Channel 19, said the recent city council candidate forum was a success, and that the forum can be viewed on channel 19.
Justin Jessop once again spent his three minutes to address the council by saying nothing in protest to the council’s new limit on how long public comment can last.
He held up a sign reading: “Every single Hamtramckan deserves to be heard.”
At one point in his silent protest, he asked the mayor to tell Councilmember Nayeem Choudhury to pay attention and not look at his laptop.
Not much later, Greg Meyering, held up the same sign in a silent protest.
Sarah Terrien also opposed the council’s new policy on public comment, saying: “I don’t really want to be here today, but I feel like I have to be here because this council continues to put limits on public comment.”
She continued: “The reality is, when you make unpopular decisions that affect the entire city, people are going to come to the meetings and tell you about it.”
She asked the council to reconsider the new limit on public comment.
(The new policy is public comment is limited to 30 minutes at the beginning of meetings and no limit at the end of meetings, although the council can end public discussion at any time.)
In new business, the council OK’d the purchase of two air packs for the fire department at a cost of $17,518.
In a routine matter, the council agreed to renew an insurance policy for workers compensation.
A lengthy discussion was held on a proposal by the city administration to lower the purchase price of vacant city lots west of I-75 from $10,000 to $5,000.
In a note to council by the administration it said:
“The City of Hamtramck adopted a resolution to sell city owned vacant lots on March 23, 2021. Since then, many parcels have been sold in the center of the city and many homes are currently under construction. However, as of yet, no parcels have sold in the neighborhood that is west of I-75; the city owns a significant number of vacant parcels in this neighborhood.
“The Community and Economic development department believes that the market value is slightly lower for lots on the northwest corner of the city, in part because it is separated by the I-75 Corridor and is further away from amenities including schools and grocery stores. The city would like to market these parcels at the lower price of $5,000.
“In addition, this resolution will allow small lots on Dequindre, Dyar, Grand Haven and Woodland that are adjacent to an existing home to be allowed to be sold as a side lot without a development agreement, if it meets zoning criteria. According to the residential zoning requirements, lots cannot be combined that are larger than 60-foot wide and 6,000 square feet total.
“A development agreement would still be required for all other lot sale purchases. Due to the number of adjacent lots in the northwest corner, the city has noticed that there is interest in building larger single family homes or multifamily structures with 4-6 units. The Community and Economic Development department believe that being able to market these lots online and with investors at a new price of $5,000 will spur such development.”
The council eventually decided to postpone making a decision on the matter.
Following a new state law approved by voters statewide, the council OK’d designating city hall the location for early voting that is limited to only state and federal elections.
Last year, Michigan voters approved a proposal to allow in-person voting nine days prior to a state or federal election. Hamtramck needed to designate a location to be in compliance.
In another proposal by the city administration, the council agreed to set a public hearing on charging the owners of vacant lots and buildings a higher penalty fee for allowing their properties to remain vacant.
The new fees will not be applied to property owners in the process of developing their sites. Community gardens are exempt from this policy.
“We’re only going after land speculators,” said City Manager Max Garbarino.
He said the proposal is meant to motivate land owners to either sell or develop their site.
The proposed increased are as follows:
1. For properties vacant for 12 to 24 consecutive months, the fee rate shall be 3% of the property’s assessed value.
2. For properties vacant for 25 to 36 consecutive months, the fee rate shall be 5% of the property’s assessed value.
3. For properties vacant for 37 and/or more consecutive months, the fee rate shall be 9% of the property’s assessed value.
The Department of Public Works was given the green light to purchase equipment to maintain sewer cleanouts instead of hiring a contractor to do the job.
DPW Director John DeAngelis said the city has already spent over $350,000 for this service for almost the last two years.
The purchase price for the equipment is $760,000 which will pay for itself in 3-4 years. The funding is coming from the Water Department.
During his comment period, Mayor Amer Ghalib talked about what’s going on in Gaza involving a war between Israel and Hamas.
Ghalib, who emigrated from Yemen, said the violence stems from Israel’s 70-year occupation of Palestinian land.
“Innocent people have been killed over the past 70 years,” he said. “So, that’s the root cause of the problem.”
Ghalib condemned “The killing of innocent people, but we also stand in solidarity with any country that’s occupied, and we support a free and independent Palestine.”
Mayor Pro Tem Mohammed Hassan, who is seeking re-election to council, responded:
“I will support whatever my mayor speaks, I support him,” he said.
Posted Oct. 20, 2023

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