City Hall Insider …10/13/23

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 Sept. 26, and all councilmembers, except Mohammed Hassan, were in attendance.
The city’s Downtown Development Authority submitted its annual report that highlighted the group’s accomplishments for the past year.
One of the highlights is a study on trash and litter. It was found out that most of the litter is cigarette butts. Some of the litter that spills out of dumpsters gets carried by the wind, the study found.
Other highlights:
The DDA secured a $5,000 grant from the Michigan Municipal League to hire local artists to beautify 28 bike racks in our downtown.
The DDA also oversaw the planting, watering, and maintaining of 43 planter boxes on Jos. Campau.
Some goals for the year include improved public safety and more street lighting, and expanding pedestrian and bike safety.
The following new businesses opened during the year:
• Alamasmari Law Group
• Elite Creations
• Juice Box Blend
• Joy Thrift
• Metro Jobs
• Platinum Plus Cutz
• Public Thrift
• Soccer Futbol
• Sutton Drug
• Ukrainian Self Reliance
• Festive Essentials Jewelry
• Trust Family Care Center
• Bengal Auto
A proclamation was read in recognition of the 1962 Yemeni revolution. It read, in part:
“The revolution in which the Yemeni people overthrew the Monarchy regime that kept the country in dark ages for centuries; and the 26th of September marked the birth of the Arab Republic of Yemen in the Northern part of the country; and this paved the way for the revolution of the 14th of October, one year later, in the Southern part of Yemen against the British occupation, which led to its liberation and independence; and the outcome of both revolutions was the reunion of the country on May 22nd, 1990;
“… And people of Yemen continue to face recurrent waves of counter-revolutions that threaten their republic, unity and sovereignty; and they continue to fight for liberty, unity, democracy, social and economic equity and justice. …”
During public comment a person who identified himself as a teacher said he “condemns any act that destroys any property.”
But, he said he is against the city’s new ethnic intimidation law, which he said “criminalizes” young people.
“I don’t see how jail time and fines do anything other than furthering a cycle of violence and, therefore, needs to be eliminated,” he said.
He suggested the city try a restorative justice approach to young people vandalizing property.
City Attorney Odey Meroueh said he is looking into that approach.
A resident said the ongoing vandalism of pride flags at residences is “scary.”
The resident sarcastically “thanked” the city council for “making me feel unsafe in my community.”
The reference was to the council’s ban on displaying pride flags on public property, which some in the community said has led to youths in the city vandalizing pride flags being flown at homes.
Mickey Pokoj complained about the condition of an alley behind PLAV Post 6 (located at Evaline and McDougall). He said it’s “deteriorating,” and this has caused vehicles to get stuck in a giant sinkhole.
“Something needs to be done,” Pokoj said.
City Manager Max Garbarino said he will have it investigated.
A man complained about an increase in his property taxes after he added an addition to his house.
A woman complained about the city’s new limit on public comment. She said it makes the public feel like it’s a “one-way conversation” between the council and the public.
“A lot of people feel unwelcome,” she said.
Later in the meeting, the council agreed to a change the policy regarding public comment.
The new policy keeps in place a 30-minute limit for members of the public to address the council at the beginning of meetings, but will now no longer limit public input to 15 minutes at the end of meetings. There is now no time limit.
However, the council reserved the right to end public comment at the end of meetings at any time.
Voting against the council’s new policy was Councilmember Mohammed Alsomiri, who is seeking re-election in the November election.
Responding to the complaint about property taxes, Mayor Amer Ghalib said he formed a sub-committee to look into the city’s property tax system.
Ghalib said he’s not “happy” about the increases, and noted that the city is “doing fine” with its budget without raising taxes.
Councilmember Muhith Mahmood said real estate agents need to be “truthful” and inform home buyers about how their property taxes will likely increase when they buy a house.
A public hearing was held on a proposal to expand development of the Metropolitan Bakery site on Lumpkin.
The company requested to rezone five vacant lots on Lumpkin from residential to industrial, in order to allow an expansion plan to go forward.
George Kordas, the owner of the company, said he has family roots in Hamtramck, going back to 1945.
“We’re really proud of where we are,” he told the council.
Kordas said the expansion will be funded by the company, and that he is not asking for a tax abatement. The expansion, he said, will allow truck deliveries to be shifted off Lumpkin, a residential area, and onto St. Aubin, the street behind the plant where there are no residential houses.
He also said that the expansion will allow him to hire more employees, and “fend off” out-of-state competition.
The rezoning request was approved.
In a request that has come before the council a few times without success, the council OK’d the purchase of air conditioning units for city hall’s IT room.
The council had previously denied the request, but Mayor Ghalib said he requested for the matter to be brought back up. The reason, he said, jokingly, was because “this group (city council) didn’t pay for my dinner, so I said OK.”
Moving on, the council approved a request from the police department to purchase 15 defibulators in order to perform CPR when needed.
Police Chief Anne Moise said the police department is usually the first on the scene of an emergency, and that it makes sense for officers to have this life-saving tool on hand.
The devices cost a total of $24,000, and that funding will come out of the department narcotics forfeiture fund.
Councilmember Mohammed Alsomiri, who is seeking re-election in the November election, was the lone objection in the vote, saying he did not understand what the request was about.
Moving on once again, the council approved an agreement with the county to extend the use of a $50,000 grant to renovate restrooms at Veterans Park to next Sept. 30 of 2024.
The grant was set to expire on Sept. 30 of 2023.
During the councilmembers’ turn to talk on any subject, Nayeem Choudhury, who is seeking re-election this November, said there were 30 auto accidents recorded for the month in Hamtramck, and that “we have to do something.”
He said that there are less than 700 auto accidents recorded statewide for the year.
(According to the Michigan State Police, there were over 293,000 auto accidents in 2022.)
Choudhury questioned why there are so many accidents, suggesting, as possible factors, traffic signals, immigrant or new drivers, or even the streets not being wide enough.
Choudhury said that a solution might be to make Conant as wide as Holbrook, “where they can park on the sidewalks.”
(Editor’s note: Parking in sidewalks is not allowed.)
He also said that Holbrook “is level, but it’s not level.”
(It was not clear what he meant by that statement.)
Posted Oct. 13, 2023

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