City Hall Insider … 12/15/23


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 Nov. 14, and all councilmembers were in attendance.
A proclamation was read honoring Richard “Rocky” Radtke, who was the head of the code enforcement department for the city. He recently died at age 62.
It read, in part:
“Rocky was a dear friend to many and left an indelible mark on the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing him; and Rocky’s professional journey was marked by his tenure as the department head of code enforcement in the City of Hamtramck, where he dedicated himself to ensuring the well-being and safety of our community; and prior to his dedicated service to the city, Rocky was the former owner of the renowned Baker’s Streetcar Bar,where his Alley Cow Grill became a culinary delight for all who visited;
“And Rocky’s passion for entertaining and cooking was evident in his love for watching cooking shows, always seeking inspiration for new culinary adventures; and his joyful spirit extended to the bar, where his hearty laugh could be heard from a mile away, filling the establishment with warmth and camaraderie;
“And Rocky, in addition to his contributions to the community, served as a paramedic, demonstrating his commitment to the health and well-being of his fellow residents; and Rocky’s legacy is not only defined by his professional achievements but also by the immense love and compassion he shared with everyone he encountered. …”
During public comment, Bill Meyer said that, for the past four meetings, no one from the public addressed the council – which he said is notable after there were a number of complaints about the council’s limits on public comments.
He said that, for the first time in a long time, the city has a balanced budget.
“And no one is talking about it,” Meyer said.
Regarding the recent rally calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, Meyer said that it was one of the largest gatherings in the city. He stated that over 1,000 people attended.
He took issue with a report by The Review that had said about 200 people attended.
(The Review has since corrected its reporting on the number of people attending in the online version of the article.)
Meyer said The Review is “Islamophobic,” and that the paper is “full of lies.”
“We cannot afford this newspaper,” Meyer said.
Mayor Amer Ghalib also took issue with a previous report by The Review on his comments about how the state of Israel was created. The Review reported that he had said that the claim (of the right to the land) by those who created Israel was based on Jews having lived there for the past 3,000 years.
Ghalib stated that what he actually said was that the claim made by those creating the Israeli nation was based on distant relatives having once been in the region 3,000 years ago.
Ghalib said the paper “sounds like the opposition.”
He did not explain what he meant by the term, “opposition.”
A public hearing was held regarding a change to the city’s ordinance on fees for allowing buildings and properties to lay dormant. The city is seeking to increase the fee charged to property owners who do nothing with their property.
In a note to council by the city administration, it was said:
“At present, the ordinance mandates an overly modest fee along with annual exterior inspections. This does nothing by way of encouraging delinquent property owners to utilize the property in a positive way to benefit the community.
“In fact, the City has a significant amount of vacant buildings and parcels that have lain dormant for years and in some case decades. We also have significant commercial property that lays dormant to include in our main business district.
“The proposed amendment will now include vacant lots and escalated fees based on the duration of inactivity for the vacant properties. The revenue generated from these fees will be utilized for community and economic development purposes.
“Attached yard lots and community gardens will not be affected.”
A lengthy discussion was held on another proposal to modify the city’s zoning ordinance to streamline the development review process.
Notably, the final decision would be taken out of the city council’s hands, which would then allow site plans to be approved by the Plan Commission.
City Manager Max Garbarino said this revision will “make it easier for people to redevelop.”
Councilmember Khalil Refai took issue with the elimination of the city council’s role.
He questioned whether it’s because there is now a “board” that is now a different color of skin.
Mayor Ghalib emphasized that the revision is “for the sake of time.”
Councilmember Mohammed Hassan said he doesn’t want to “give up my right,” as a member of council, regarding the council’s role in site approval.
“Residents elected us to oversee,” Hassan said.
The council agreed to keep the council’s role intact.
The proposal will be revisited at a future meeting.
In another lengthy discussion, the council considered whether to award a contract to Hennessey Engineers for the design and construction of a Jos. Campau water main.
Councilmember Refai took issue with the city having discovered that, at some time in the past, someone filled the old water main with concrete. That discovery was made several months ago, and Refai said the council should have been informed of the fact at that time.
City Manager Garbarino said, of that discovery: “We’re going to discover things … that make you scratch your head.”
He said the point is to move forward.
The contract was approved, but Councilmembers Refai and Mohammed Alsomiri voted in opposition.
An ambulance contract was approved for the city’s current contractor Rapid Response. Councilmember Refai once again objected.
The price for the service will increase slightly for the next three years.
In another matter, the council approved a proposal to have the city’s Parks Conservancy take over the scheduling of events at the Turkey Stearnes Field, where the city’s historic baseball stadium is located.
Councilmember Refai said he’s noticed that there is “a lot of dog poop” on the field. Konrad Maziarz, of the Parks Conservancy, said there has been a problem of geese using the field, but the group is working on a solution.
In his mayoral report, Mayor Ghalib questioned why there was so much attention regarding the recent lawsuit filed against the city over the banning of pride flags on public property.
“I received so many questions from the media regarding the recent lawsuit against the city for the flag issue. … It was expected. There was already multiple ones (lawsuits) filed against the city. I don’t know why this one made it to the news that bad,” Ghalib said.
He said the lawsuit’s claim that a majority of people who spoke about allowing pride flags to be flown on public property, at a previous council meeting,were in favor of the idea does not reflect a true “sampling” of the city.
Ghalib said that, in order to get a more accurate gauge on public opinion on the issue, a wider survey needs to be conducted.
Councilmember Refai thanked people who attended the recent rally for Palestine, and lambasted The Review for saying 200 people attended instead of a more accurate counting of over 1,000.
He referred to the paper as a “nonsense newsletter” that has not “supported us.”
“Since we came into power, it’s (The Review) been working against us. It has not supported this body at all,” Refai said.
Ghalib said there is “so much to say” about The Review, accusing the newspaper of being “a voice of the former power structure.”
He said the city needs to reconsider using the paper for public notices.
Councilmember Nayeem Choudhury congratulated the winners in the recent city council election. Choudhury did not get re-elected in the November election.
“It all comes down to absentee ballots,” he said.
Councilmember Muhith Mahmood said demand for a ceasefire in Gaza should be a “wake-up call” to politicians.
Councilmember Abu Musa said he hopes President Joe Biden will “wake up … and he’ll do a ceasefire for the people.”
(Since that meeting, President Biden played a significant role in getting a temporary ceasefire. That ceasefire last for just a few days.)
Musa also “condemned” The Review for its coverage of the Palestine rally, and he then ripped up a copy of the paper.
Posted Dec. 15, 2023

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