What is our City Council up to these days? We have the scoop and the highlights – as well as the lowlights – of the latest council meeting.
By Charles Sercombe
Here is the second part of the City Council meeting that was held on May 10.
The city’s traffic patrol program will soon be back on the road, and it will have a new enhancement. The council agreed to allow the purchase of more “e-ticket” machines for the department’s patrol cars.
The device will allow officers to upload ticket information instantly to the Hamtramck 31st District Court, which will help cut down on some tedious labor for court employees.
The machines will be paid through the city’s 911 grant.
And there’s an added benefit: Police Chief Mark Kalinowski said it will free up officers to get back on the road to issue more tickets. See? Everyone wins.
With the Downtown Development Authority soon to hire two new code inspectors, who will be assigned to concentrate only on the Jos. Campau business district, Councilmember Tom Jankowski suggested having the inspectors be introduced to the public.
And they will at this Tuesday’s Council meeting (May 24).
In the public input portion of the meeting, council candidate Robert Zwolak urged the council to allow voters to decide on whether to increase the city’s property tax rate to its legal limit.
Previously in the meeting the council, in a 4-2 vote, agreed to raise the city’s tax rate by 2.2 mills. By law, voters are not required to approve this tax increase. But any amount over that would require voter-approval.
Despite that, Zwolak said voters should still weigh in on the matter.
“Let’s make this a full-fledged community debate,” he said.
Candidate Zwolak also said that council has failed to look at “structural” changes to the city’s budget. He did not elaborate on what he meant by “structural” changes.
He also pointed out that $3.5 million a year is spent on “legacy” costs, or more directly, pensions. It was unclear what his point was.
Another candidate for council, Steve Shaya, had nice things to say about Councilmembers Katrina Stackpoole and Shahab Ahmed and their service to the community. Both councilmembers declined to seek re-election this year.
Candidate Shaya also questioned the decision of doing a job performance review of the city manager in a closed meeting.
“Everything gets done behind closed doors,” he said.
He also added that a job performance review is not on the same scale as something more serious, or felonious in nature.
“It’s not murder,” he said.
(Editor’s note: By law, the city manager can – and did—demand the review be held in closed session. That decision was out of the council’s legal authority. And by law, murder trials are held open to the public in court.)
Shaya also added that given the city’s budget shortfall, minor repairs to the water system should be delayed, although he conceded that the water system has deteriorated.
Another council candidate spoke. Roger Lamm said he’s good at math and he’s calculated that it would be better management to split the cost of the water service: one for the actual cost of water and one for cost of repairs to the system.
He also said he’s looked at the possible option of contracting police service to Detroit and dismissed it because it would result in poor response time. He said it would be the “same difference” with the Fire Department.
Lamm added that if a merger of the police and fire department is made, half of the city’s residents will move out.
Lamm said it’s also his calculation that the city needs to raise its property tax rate by six to 10 mills to make up for the decrease in property values. He said ultimately the city needs to make deeper cuts to its budget.
Another candidate for council spoke forth. Mohamed Delawar Hussain said that the council should not have increased both the water and sewer rates. He said the council should not have increased the sewer rate, but he was OK with the increase of the water rate.
(Editor’s note: The council increased the water rate by 7 percent and the sewer rate by 4 percent. The increases were imposed by Detroit, which supplies water and sewer service to Hamtramck as well as about 100 other communities.)
After the council meeting, we caught up with Hussain and asked why he was opposed to the increase of the sewer rate. Hussain explained that whenever sewer repairs are made, Detroit is not the one doing them.
It was explained to him that Detroit provides the service of processing sewage from Hamtramck.
Hussain: “Oh. Well they should say that.”
Another council candidate spoke. Abdul Algazali said the council should not have increased the city’s property tax rate until “the fat lady sings.”
“A tax increase is a tax increase no matter how you put it,” he added.
(Editor’s note: It sounds sweeter when the fat lady sings it.)
Algazali said the council should have first waited to see if the police and fire unions agree to contract concessions before passing a tax increase.
As for those councilmembers who voted for the tax increase, he had this to say: “We know who you are.”
(Editor’s note: Just in case you don’t know who they are, they are: Councilmembers Stackpoole, Ahmed, Jankowski and Cathie Gordon. Councilmembers Mohammed Hassan and Kazi Miah voted against it.)