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 Sept. 12, and all councilmembers were in attendance. The meeting ran for almost four hours.
A certificate of recognition in honor of Glafira Gordon was read into the record.
“Glafira has displayed an unwavering commitment to beautification, particularly in the transformation of Pope Park. Her tireless efforts and creative vision have breathed new life into this part of our city, making it a more vibrant and inviting place for all residents and visitors to enjoy.”
During public comment, a woman objected to a proposal to hire a company to install surveillance cameras to take photos of license plates.
The proposal calls for installing 15 cameras and the supporting technology for over $53,000, with a yearly subscription cost of $45,000.
In a note to council from the city administration, it was said:
“This technology includes license plate recognition, gathers objective evidence and facts about vehicles, not people, alerts police of wanted vehicles, is used to solve crimes and adheres to all state laws. This will not be used for traffic enforcement and does not involve facial recognition.”
The woman said this technology will affect privacy issues. She added that systems like this have been known to “misread” plates, which has lead to false accusations.
Former councilmember Carrie Beth Lasley said the use of surveillance cameras has a “history” of “being racist.”
Later, an attorney for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Ramis Wadood, cautioned the city against installing the system.
He said the cameras are known to “not operate perfectly.”
“It will certainly lead to wrongful arrests,” Wadood said.
He said the money it will cost to install the system would be better spent elsewhere.
Gracie Cadieux-Fae also opposed the surveillance cameras.
She said the council should be “engaging with citizens … not sitting there spying.”
Later in the meeting, the council decided against installing the cameras.
Continuing in public comment, Josh Hansknecht of the Hamtramck Queer Alliance spoke against a proposed ethnic intimidation ordinance being considered later in the meeting.
Hansknecht said the council should not “tailor” ordinances based on the “convenience of council.”
On other issues, Hansknecht said public comment should not be limited at the council meetings. He said it’s the council and mayor’s job to listen to the public.
Justin Jessop spent his allotted three minutes to address the council by remaining silent and holding up a sign that said:
“Hamtramck doesn’t want to hear my voice.”
It was apparently in protest to the council’s new rule to limit public comment to 30 minutes at the beginning of the meetings and 15 minutes at the end, regardless whether citizens didn’t get a chance to speak.
State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and State Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), both of whose districts include Hamtramck, gave an update on what’s been happening in Lansing.
Aiyash spoke first, saying that the legislature and governor passed “one of the most progressive budgets in history.”
He said that Hamtramck was one of the big winners in the new state budget, and is in line to receive $15 million for water infrastructure improvements.
Also coming down the pike, Aiyash said, is a one-time-only 2-percent financial hike for public safety, and an increase over the next 10 years in state revenue sharing that will total $10 million.
He credited this achievement to the all-Democratic Party control of the legislature and the governor’s office – the first time Democrats have been in charge of all three branches of the state government since Ronald Reagan was president.
Sen. Chang mentioned that both she and Aiyash have an office on Jos. Campau that the public can visit, where they can talk with staff members about their concerns.
Mayor Amer Ghalib said he was hoping for more money to repave alleys “but you punished us for no reason.”
Ghalib did not explain that comment.
He added: “Thank you, we still support you.”
A public hearing was held on a proposed ordinance to combat ethnic intimidation.
The proposal reads as follows:
Section 130.010 – Minority or Ethnic Intimidation.
(1) A person is guilty of minority or ethnic intimidation if that person maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin, does any of the following:
(a) Causes physical contact with another person.
(b) Damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another person.
(i) This can include the placing of any objects upon the vehicle of another of any kind when done as a means of intimidation or with intent to harass.
(c) Threatens, by word or act, to do an act described in subdivision (a) or (b), if there is reasonable cause to believe that an act described in subdivision (a) or (b) will occur.
(2) Minority or Ethnic intimidation is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 90 days in jail, or by a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
(3) This offense shall be considered a separate offense from other crimes against persons or property under the laws of the City of Hamtramck and may be charged as an additional offense to such offense.
Council candidate Lynn Blasey spoke, questioning whether those who commit property damage on purpose will now be double-charged by both a local and an existing state law regarding malicious destruction of property.
Blasey said that, instead of passing this ordinance, money and time would be better spent “on building bridges and creating activities across the city that bring people together.”
The council and mayor, she said, should be “role models.”
ACLU attorney Wadood said the ordinance is unneeded because it is “word-for-word, for the most part” identical to a state law.
As for the vandalism of property, Wadood said there are already existing laws that address the issue.
“This ordinance really isn’t doing much at all,” Wadood said. “All the ordinance is accomplishing is expanding the power of the City of Hamtramck to criminalize its residents and its visitors for conduct that is already criminalized on the state level.”
Wadood went on to say that the ordinance “poses serious constitutional issues” by criminalizing “any threats by word or act.” That, he said, violates the First Amendment right of the constitution.
Wadood said similar laws are used against protestors criticizing government.
“But time and time again, the courts have found the protestors’ speech is protected.”
Wadood added that he has “serious concerns how this ordinance came up in the first place.”
He was referencing “the placing of any objects upon the vehicle of another of any kind when done as a means of intimidation or with intent to harass” part of the ordinance.
This apparently came about after Mayor Ghalib complained about an unpeeled sticker of a pride flag that was placed on his car.
“Turning a personal vendetta into a law that carries jail time is extremely inappropriate. … This ordinance only further divides the city,” Wadood said.
Mayor Ghalib responded, saying that city officials had been accused of doing nothing about minority and ethnic intimidation.
“We just want to stop it from both sides,” Ghalib said, in reference to placing intimidating material on vehicles.
Ghalib said that what the ACLU is saying is it’s OK to punish acts against the LGBTQ community “but leave it open for them (the LGTBQ community) to do any kind of vandalism to other people?”
Gracie Cadieux-Fae said this ordinance came about because of the council and mayor supporting a ban on displaying pride flags on public property, and that they were warned:
“If you choose to brand your hate as civic government, we would resist, we would protest you.”
If the ordinance does meet the approval of the council and mayor (who votes on ordinances), Cadieux-Fae said she will “call on the queers of Hamtramck to paper the f— out of this city with stickers, with protests, with outright dissent to what you’re doing.”
Cadieux-Fae also warned that this law has the potential to “harm” the Muslim community.
“I’m here to say it: white people are not your friends, gentlemen. They’re not here to support you. They don’t like what you’ve built here.”
She warned that if the political tables are ever turned, this law will be “weaponized against you.”
As for the Muslim and “queer” communities, Cadieux-Fae said, “We can exist together but you have to stop being dicks.”
Mayor Ghalib responded, saying: “Thank you for that threatening language.”
He added that the city is not trying to prevent protests, but that “you have to compromise. You are the one causing all this tension, not us. … You can’t come and threaten us like that.”
The council later approved the ordinance.
Posted Oct. 6, 2023