City Hall Insider … 7/14/23

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 June 27, and all councilmembers, except for Mohammed Hassan and Nayeem Choudhury, were in attendance.
A proclamation was read that recognized the 28th anniversary of “the genocide that the Serbian forces perpetrated in Srebrenica, and all of Bosnia from 1992 to 1995.”
The proclamation read, in part: “… At least 8,372 innocent Bosniak civilians were summarily executed and 30,000 were expelled from their homes in the worst atrocity in Europe since the holocaust.”
During public comment, several people sent emails criticizing a council proposal to not accept email comments.
The proposal, said Eric Welsby, the Advocacy Director for Detroit Disability Power, will “create massive barriers for people with disabilities and their abilities to have their voices heard by this council.”
George Elkind, a resident, said the prohibition will “dramatically restrict the ability of residents and community stakeholders to make their voices heard.
“Council is meant to represent the community’s needs, and should thus be open to hearing their views.”
Julia Sosin said emails will “increase participation in democracy.”
“They are extremely convenient for me, a busy working mom …”
Matthew Isopi accused the council of being motivated to not accept emails because of the number of emails that were sent to the council at a previous meeting in opposition to the council’s ban on allowing pride flags to be flown on public property.
“You didn’t like it when your constituents overwhelmingly made their voice heard …,” Isopi said.
On the subject of the pride flag ban, Meghan Navoy said she is against the council’s decision, saying it “encourages homophobia.”
“I am opening a retail store and art space in Hamtramck, and my business is welcoming and accepting of all people,” Navoy said. “I do not want to be operating in a place that encourages homophobia via the city’s banning of hanging the pride flag, especially during Pride Month.”
Justin Jessop, speaking in person at the meeting, said the display of the pride flag is meant to show diversity.
Lynn Blasey, who is a candidate for city council, said she is against banning emails. She said that, had that policy been in place when Councilmember Khalil Refai was absent for several months, his emails to the council to comment on matters would not have been read into the record.
Darren Shelton of Ant Hall, a performance theater on Caniff, said the council’s ban on displaying a pride flag on public places suppresses “the voices of this community.”
He said his theater has received many calls from people saying they will no longer patronize Hamtramck, and he is also receiving a lot of hate mail.
Shelton said that, despite the council’s stated reason to ban pride flags to remain “neutral,” the effect has been the opposite.
In reaction to the council’s action, he said Planet Ant will host a pride event on July 28 at 6 p.m. He invited the mayor and council to be there.
“We will be loud, and we will have fun,” Shelton said.
He also invited the mayor and council to meet with community leaders and business owners “to address this growing divide and violence and hatred here as a result of the pride resolution.”
Bill Meyer said that the council “chose the only way out” in banning pride flags.
Mayor Amer Ghalib said the decision about pride flags was the city’s way of trying to “make everybody happy.”
He said that without some guidelines on what flags can be flown on city property, there might be someone demanding to fly “some weird flag.”
A lengthy discussion followed on updating how council meetings are conducted. The council agreed to adjust what can be discussed during public comment at the end of the meeting to, moving forward, be on any topic, not just what was on the agenda.
At the suggestion of Councilmember Muhith Mahmood, the council also agreed to allow emails to be accepted and read into the record, but limit it to the first 15 emails to be submitted to the clerk’s office.
Mayor Ghalib questioned whether the city could limit email input to that coming from residents only.
City Attorney Odey Meroueh said that would deny people their First Amendment right.
In what was touted as a cost-saving move, the council agreed to use plastic pipes instead of copper for city water service lines.
City Manager Max Garbarino said this will result in a $120,000 savings.
After a second attempt at approval, the council agreed to purchase a second street sweeper. John DeAngelis, the Director of Public Services, said there had been confusion among some councilmembers over the source of funding.
He said funding will come from a road fund, not the city’s general budget.
The cost of the sweeper is $275,000.
During the mayor’s report, Ghalib said he was able to prevent counter-protestors from coming out during the pride flag rally held a few weeks ago in Zussman Park.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to keep the city safe and calm,” he said.
Councilmember Mahmood said that he supports women on city council. Currently, the council is all male, and there is only one woman candidate, Lynn Blasey, in the upcoming city council election.
(The last time Blasey ran for council, she finished sixth, which was last place.)
As for that controversial vote to ban pride flags on city property that he supported, he said the council’s job “is always difficult.”
Posted July 14, 2023

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