By Charles Sercombe
With 2012 now just a memory, it’s time to wipe off our crystal ball and gaze into Hamtramck’s future.
So far, it’s looking a lot like last year — well, at least in terms of the city’s finances. Hamtramck officials are still trying to come up with a plan to reduce the budget deficit.
All they have managed to do so far is reject one deficit elimination plan after another. Acting City Manager Kyle Tertzag said he wants to hold work sessions with the city council to discuss just what exactly councilmembers have on their mind.
That may prove to be harder than it sounds since this council has been divided on a number of issues.
Speaking of Tertzag, his contract as temporary acting city manager is up in July. The council has backed off on its search for a permanent city manager until the city’s financial picture improves.
By July, Tertzag could be appointed to that position since he will at that time have the minimum amount of experience required by the city charter to be a city manager.
But before that happens, city officials need to cross their fingers and hope the city doesn’t run out of money to meet employee payroll – which is a strong possibility.
If that does occur, it’s likely the state will step in and appoint an emergency manager. Tertzag told The Review that he has met with state officials and that one of the options “on the table” is to combine Hamtramck and Highland Park into Detroit.
Yes, state officials are actually considering that.
The public school district is also wrestling with a budget deficit, but its administration has made huge progress in whittling it down. In the past year, the district reduced its budget shortfall from $4.9 million to $3.7 million.
District Superintendent Tom Niczay said that if everything goes as planned, the deficit will be eliminated by 2015. Hmmmm, maybe he could loan his administration out to the city for a little while.
For political junkies, this election year promises some drama. Councilmembers Abdul Algazali, Tom Jankowski and Mohammed Hassan are all up for re-election.
Mayor Karen Majewski is also up for re-election.
The word is that all three councilmembers have an interest in running for mayor. What’s not clear is whether Mayor Majewski will seek another term.
Majewski has not said she will bow out this year but there is plenty of talk in town that it appears she’s not interested in another term.
Expect a land rush of sorts in the coming months. The city is about to settle a longstanding housing discrimination lawsuit that has held up the sale of city lots for over 30 years.
But before you start staking a claim on that lot next door to you, city officials are first going to get each property appraised.
It’s expected that at some point, the lots will be put up for auction. Some lots may also be held back to be developed into “pocket” parks and neighborhood gardens.
What city officials would like to see happen to the majority of them is for new housing to be built.
That will be one hot topic this year. There is serious talk in city government circles of doing away with the fire department, and combining it into the police department, which would then be renamed as a public safety department.
What all this means is that cops will drive around with firefighting gear and do the job of firefighters when a fire breaks out.
Hey firefighters, better start brushing up on your knowledge of the law and law enforcement. And learn how to use a gun.
City officials we’ve talked to predict that combining the two departments into one would save anywhere from $2-$3 million a year plus allow the city to get more cops out on patrols.
In the city’s cultural and social scene, the largest party of the year, The Hamtramck Labor Day Festival, looks like it’s on solid financial ground. Two new organizers, Shannon Lowell and Konrad Maziarz, took over managing the festival last year and they were able to produce a small profit.
We can hardly wait.
Let’s give that crystal ball a little more shining. Ah, what we see is an ongoing increase in home property values, but forget about those values coming back up to where they were before the housing bubble blew up.
Hamtramck’s housing values will just inch up a little bit in the coming year, but, hey, it’s better than sliding backwards.
Well, the old crystal ball is clouding over, and it’s time to pack it up for another year. See you in 2014.