City Hall Insider … 1/9/24

By Charles Sercombe
The city council met on Jan. 9, and all councilmembers were in attendance.
The meeting, the first of the year, started with an appointment of a councilmember to be the mayor pro tem.
At first, there was confusion on when a councilmember can make a motion to nominate a candidate.
But before a nomination was entertained, public discussion was opened up. Bill Meyer cautioned that choosing a councilmember to be mayor pro tem can become “very political.”
With that said, Councilmember Mohammed Hassan, who was mayor pro tem last year, nominated Councilmember Muhith Mahmood. That ended in a tie vote. Normally, the mayor would then break a tie vote, but Mayor Amer Ghalib declined.
Councilmember Muhith then nominated Councilmember Hassan to the position, but that, too, resulted in a tie vote with the mayor once again declining to break the tie.
“I have to be neutral,” he said. “You guys have to work as a team. … This is personal. I don’t want this vote to cost me any animosity.”
At this point the city attorney informed the mayor and council that the mayor has to vote and break tie votes no matter what.
Ghalib said he would then vote “no” on tie votes on this matter.
Eventually, new Councilmember Muhtasin Sadman nominated Councilmember Abu Musa. That motion passed with only Councilmembers Muhith and Hassan objecting.
Public discussion was once again allowed, and Bill Meyer said that nomination process “was like a charade.” He said the mayor was right to remain “neutral.”
“The mayor should have never been involved in this one,” Meyer said.
Hamtramck Police Chief Anne Moise presented the annual report from her department.
A few highlights include:
There were 16, 259 calls for service
Felony arrests, 196
Misdemeanor arrests, 387
Robbery down by 27%

Burglary down by 21%
Fraud down by 12%
Drug crimes down by 17%
Homicide down by 100%
Alcohol crimes down by 42%
Violent crime up by 5%
Property crime up by 13%
Retail fraud up 60%

Total tickets issued, 7,136
Civil Infractions, 6,815
Speeding Citations Breakdown, 123
Misdemeanor Traffic, 1,049
Dangerous/Reckless, etc., 50
Parking Related (non meter), 3,051
Mayor Ghalib said that in his talk with residents, the most “pressing issue” is the amount of vehicles being stolen.
He said he tells the community that the council recently approved license plate reading cameras. Moise said that will be effective, but it could take months before they are installed and functioning.
Moise recommended auto owners install a “kill” switch and to use the “club” device to thwart thieves.
She said that officers on patrol are on the lookout for suspicious people and incidents, but there is a fine line officers have to follow to avoid violating people’s civil rights.
As for fighting against auto thefts, which are up nationwide, Moise said: “We’re taking steps in the right direction.”
During public discussion, Bill Meyer said he wished more people would attend council meetings and address the council and mayor.
As for the ongoing, regionwide, bike lane project, Meyer said hardly anyone uses the bike lane here in Hamtramck.
“You’ll find out it’s a total waste of time,” he said. “Hamtramck is not ready for it.”
Moise later announced her retirement from the department at the end of January, and that this is her last city council meeting that she will attend.
She has been chief for nine years.
“I’ve had a very rewarding career,” Moise said.
Those in the council chamber gave her a standing ovation.
Mayor Ghalib responded: ‘We appreciate your service. … We and the whole community will miss you.”
Moise is the first female to be appointed chief in Hamtramck.
The council approved a contract renewal for the services of McKenna Associates to perform inspections of commercial buildings and houses.
City Manager Max Garbarino said the city is saving $300,000 in this contract by having more inspections being taken over by the city’s Department of Public Services.
In a note to the council by the administration, it was said:
“McKenna has been providing the permit tech staffing, building, trade and rental inspectors for inspection services for the past five years including plan review and some zoning planning with nearly a gross revenue of $788,000.
“Currently the city captures 25% of this revenue, most of it coming from the building and rental inspection side of their provided services. With the new proposed contract as written and attached the City would handle the building and rental inspections in house and only outsource one permit tech and the three trade inspections (Electrical, Plumbing & Mechanical) to McKenna. McKenna would also handle plan review and services as listed in the proposed contract.”
A lengthy discussion was held on an update of a bike-walking path that will eventually connect Hamtramck to Detroit, Dearborn and Highland Park.
The project is federally-funded and is called the “Joe Louis Greenway.”
According to City Manager Garbarino, hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been spent on creating the initial bike lane here in Hamtramck.
Members of the city’s Community Economic Development Department gave an update on what’s been done so far here, as well as what the completed project will look like.
The Director of the department Karolynn Faulkner stressed that the overall project will take five to 10 years to complete, but once it does, it’s expected it will be used by thousands of people and will be an economic boon to local businesses.
Councilmembers, however, said no one uses the existing bike lane and that all it has accomplished is to remove parking spaces for businesses.
Councilmember Hassan said he wants the city to stop the project – even if that means repaying the government hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Garbarino said that not only would the city have to repay what’s been spent already, ending the project would harm the city’s relationship with the state’s Department of Transportation.
Faulkner urged patience, saying various studies have shown how bike lanes can boost local economies – in large, medium and small cities.
Mayor Ghalib said that research is “biased,” and that the benefits of a bike lane do not apply to small cities like Hamtramck.
He said that “not too many people prefer to ride bikes.”
Faulkner had said that a lot of people from outside the city will be using the bike lane.
Ghalib said this project came before the current council was in office, and that when the project was first talked about, no one reached out to the community for feedback.
He said that just like the new parking meters, “the community was not consulted.”
Garbarino said that the parking issue with the bike lane in the southend can be alleviated by creating angle parking in front of Veterans Park.
Ghalib said that American Axle wants this project to go forward and is part of the company’s expansion plan where it will be investing hundreds of millions of dollars.
Councilmember Hassan insisted that despite what the national studies have show about the benefits of bike lanes, “We are not improving the (local) economy; we are destroying the economy.”
Mayor Ghalib conceded that “At this point it’s difficult to reverse the whole thing.”

Posted Feb. 11, 2024

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