Monday, May 18, 2009

State of the City Address - Ferndale 2009

What a difference a year makes. Last year the stock market was several thousand points higher than it is today, we had unemployment but it was not as high as it is today…George bush was president, and Ferndale had a budget surplus. Kwame Kilpatrick was still mayor of Detroit. And Michigan still had 3 fully functioning car companies.

But in spite of major challenges, I am still very optimistic about Ferndale.

Probably the best recent news here is that we have as of last week adopted a balanced budget for the city. We did have to raise some fees and water rates will go up once again, this time about 10 %. It will cost more to get certain permits or reviews from the city, and if you are late on paying a parking ticket, expect that cost to increase. We will not replace our senior services director at the kulick center, instead those duties and efforts will be absorbed by the Recreation Director herself. We still have a hiring freeze in place, and it will become increasingly difficult to persuade City Council to fill vacancies. We will try and limit overtime, and in the Fall, leaves will be picked up less often than before.

But compared to most of the cities and townships around us, Ferndale is in solid fiscal shape. Our $18 million dollar general fund is lean, strong, and able to fulfill the obligations for excellent city services that our residents and business owners expect and deserve.

We have received federal stimulus funds for a variety of projects, including some road resurfacing on the East side. We are applying for an $800,000 grant from stimulus money for replacement of the city’s water meters, part of a 3 year , $3.1 million dollar plan to upgrade water system components. This green initiative will save the city money on water bills and will allow for automated meter readings without having meter readers drive the whole city.

We also received $1.1 million dollars from the federal government to rehabilitate foreclosed and vacant properties in Ferndale and aid in putting these homes back on the market. These funds can also be used to demolish dilapidated homes and this program should assist in redevelopment in 20 to 30 homes, primarily in the south east quadrant of the city.

Our property values have dropped in Ferndale, as they have in every community across the nation, but the good news is that Ferndale’s values have declined far less than most; in Oakland County, our city is in the very top tier of cities whose values have dropped the very least.

We broke ground two weeks ago on the new $4 million dollar library renovation and expansion…that project will result in a state of the art library in our downtown and it should be open next year.

We also are on track to build a new 43rd District court facility on city property in front of the police department. That $3.5 million dollar project will be funded by savings, court income and bonds. It would not impact the city budget or services. The Council plans to proceed later on renovation of the Patrick Sullivan Law Enforcement Building which is cramped and in dire need of updating. Finally, depending on future revenues and economic conditions, we may also borrow funds through bonds to renovate city hall.

In 2008 we saw a 300% increase in new public and private investment in downtown Ferndale over 2007 which included a net increase of 225 new jobs. The $20 million in new investment included $9 million for the Lofts on 9 and the renovation of the Foley Mansfield Law Firm at $5 million. Other renovations include the new Loving Touch Billiards Hall and Blumz by JR Designs.

We learned today of a new successful $30,000 grant to fund half of our project to renovate the alley-way between Ferndale Center Building, Dino’s and the Foley Mansfield building making that alley pedestrian friendly with benches, plants, and artwork.. the first of what we plan on doing with many of our downtown alley-ways.

Coming soon, the new Rosie O’Grady’s restaurant and sports bar which
I am quite sure will be an amazing place and quite popular. Then we should see the original restaurant next year become a Tex-Mex restaurant..which I expect will become one of my favorites. Nami Restaurant is also being fully renovated under new ownership.

Pete’s Place on Woodward Hts just west of Hilton is very popular and if you have not been there yet, you will truly love it.

We are studying now the feasibility and location for a new parking structure downtown on the East side of Woodward.

Ferncare is the new planned free clinic which has generated huge amounts of interest and support. It may open toward the end of this year.

We organized the first town hall meeting of our city’s charitable groups and organizations, and had about 30 people attend representing a dozen local not-for-profits.

And there seems to be some possible movement for a store in the Old Navy Building. I suppose a giant Halloween Store is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick…and it should fit into Ferndale’s image just fine.

We continue to save resources by partnering with neighboring cities for animal control, fire protection, and in the future even possilbly more police and fire services with Pleasant Ridge, Hazel Park, and Royal Oak Township.

I led my own organization Midwest AIDS Prevention Project into a
merger with a similar group called the Michigan AIDS Fund, which
now has a combined staff of 17, a board of directors of 26 and a
budget of $1.4 million dollars. We expect to move downtown before
the end of the year into a newly renovated building on Woodward with
4,500 square feet of loft style office space.

Ferndale continues to lead the way in environmental efforts with additional bike racks, planned improvements to our parks, support for renovated and or green buildings, purchase of Ford Focuses to replace old gas-guzzling Crown Vics and we have doubled the number of trees planted by the city this year, from 100 to 200. Since 2001 we have planted 1,000 trees in the city, which beautify and cool the city and add oxygen to the air.

In addition to the Dream Cruise, our city now is home to the annual Green Cruise which attracts 1,000 people each year, the Veg Fest which attracted over 3,000 people this year, the Gay Pride Festival which attracts 35,000 people each year, and now the DIY which attracted many thousands of millenials and others last September.

We are still the darling of the media, which is always looking at our innovative, creative, and cutting edge ways of doing things and creating change. There is always plenty of bad news in Michigan with stories of inept government, scandals, unemployment, bankruptcies, and
budget deficits. But we continue to be the “mouse that roars….The media appreciates what we are trying to do here, showing the region a new way.

WE OF COURSE HAVE MAJOR CHALLENGES. Income and REVENUES FROM PROPERTY TAXES AND STATE REVENUE SHARING WILL REMAIN FLAT AT BEST, OR CONTINUE A SLIGHT DOWNWARD TREND. WE ARE IN THE STATE THAT HAS SUFFERED
THE MOST AND FOR THE LONGEST TIME UNDER THIS RECESION.
The STATE HAS A HUGE AND ONGOING DEFICIT, AND DETROIT IN MANY WAYS CONTINUES to falter with poor to NEARLY NON-EXISTENT SERVICES, high crime rates, and serious budget problems.

While Police Chief Michael informs us that current over-all CRIME STATISTICS in Ferndale ARE STABLE OR EVEN FALLING, WE STILL ARE AT-RISK BASED ON THE ECONOMY AND OUR PROXIMITY TO big crime problems nearby.

NO MATTER HOW MUCH SUCCESS FERNDALE MAY ACHIEVE, OR HOW COOL A CITY WE ARE, IT WOULD ALL BE FOR NAUGTHT IF THE RESIDENTS, VISITORS AND BUSINESS OWNERS DO NOT FEEL SAFE ON THE STREET OR IN THEIR HOMES.

But in spite of these challenges, WE CONTINUE TO BE OPTIMISTIC AND
HAVE FAITH IN OUR CITY AND THE REGION.

We have succeeded in attracting young people and millenials to Ferndale…according to census, the largest subset in among ferndale’s 21,000 people are those aged 25 to 34. Together with our seniors who have kept faith in our city, we baby boomers, and the families and children who make Ferndale home, we are poised to create a solid foundation for the future.

On a macro level, I believe THAT AS CLIMATE CHANGE CONTINUES, WE WILL SEE THE GREAT LAKES REGION, BECOME STRONG AGAIN.

THE BURGEONING CITIES IN FLORIDA , TEXAS AND ARIZONA ARE NOT SUSTAINABLE, AND IF THE CLIMATE BECOMES HOTTER AND DRIER, YOU WILL SEE A REVERSAL IN THE 30 YEAR POPULATION MOVEMENTS FROM NORTH TO SOUTH.

THEY ARE BUILDING A HUGE DEEP WATER PORT IN NOVA SCOTIA TO HANDLE SHIPPING THAT WILL SOON BECOME ROUTINE IN THE SUMMER MONTHS ACROSS THE TOP OF THE EARTH AS THE POLAR ICE CAP COMPLETELY MELTS FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MILLENIA. CANADA AND THE NORTHERN U.S. WILL BECOME EVER MORE IMPORTANT FOR TRADE AND AGRICULTURE. MICHIGAN’S LOCATION WILL ONCE AGAIN BE VALUABLE IN THIS CHANGING WORLD.


WE HAVE A NEW PRESIDENT, A NEW MAYOR IN DETROIT, and in 2011 we will have a new Governor.

THIS FALL FERNDALE VOTERS WILL ELECT TWO COUNCILMEMBERS AND A MAYOR, AND THAT ELECTION COULD BRING CHANGE AS WELL.

I want to thank the businesses in our community who have kept faith in our community such as Ferndale Labs, Gage Products, Credit Union One, Huntington Bank, Garden Fresh, many others who are growing and investing in Ferndale’s Future.

We have new businesses like S3 and other entertainment and media/adverstizing companies bringing the film industry not only Michigan but to Ferndale.

Our shop local initiative reminds folks that we can shop and buy right here in town, saving time, gas, and stress at places like Blumz, Snap Fitness, State Farm Insurance,Garden Fresh Salsa, Mobil Oil, Foodland, Western Market, Emory, and so many more.
I almost never have to leave Ferndale and can buy cars, vitamins, vegetables, plants, furniture, take out of every ethnic variety, and so much more. I can get a massage, go to the gym, see a doctor, get a hair cut, and go to the bank or post office without even getting into a car !

In my five decades, I have lived in six cities…by far Ferndale is the best…people love living here and visiting here….and it is the people here who make the city as productive and cutting edge and pleasant and fun.

It is the people who run and own and work in our businesses and the residents and volunteers who live and work and play here who are making Ferndale synonymous with the word...cool.

2 Comments:

At 7:13 PM, Blogger markblackwell said...

Hello Mr. Mayor:

Thanks for allowing comments after your SOTC Address. Kind of a cool feature. And sorry I'm so late responding.

Concerning the parking structure on the East side of Woodward, don't you think it's a shame that the words "Troy Street Parking Project" became such a household word in the city of Ferndale only to have it completely dropped like a hot potato? What ever did happen to that project anyway? And how come when it looks like something may happen we get regular announcements in papers and bulliten boards ... but when it falls apart it goes without a peep, almost as though everyone's just hoping we'll forget about it?

And as to the old Old Navy Store becoming another one of those gawdy, plastic costumes for kids outlet - ick. I mean, it could be cool if it was done in such a way that it celebrated the gay community's love of all things Halloween, complete with the Castro Sized Pride Flag - THAT could be cool. But seriously, a Gags n' Gifts? Ugh. I just hope that patience will lead to progress.

You're doing a great job. Thanks for seeing us through this dark time as ably as your predecessor would have.

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger Craig Covey said...

You are correct Mark. The landlord at the old Old Navy has not been motivated to rent, as he was still getting rent from Old Navy...but at least now he is repairing the front of the building...the gateway to Ferndale.
And maybe we can steer the Halloween store, if it arrives, to understand our demographics and that lots of adults will buy as well.

as for Troy Development, if you mean the west side, that project was a result of the economic/real estate/ credit meltdown. I guess I would rather see it down right, and well, than half way done or shoddy.

Stay tuned, and thanks for watching.

 

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