2016 State of the City Address
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I would like to welcome you all to the State of the City Address for the city of Inkster for 2016. I would like to thank the Inkster Chamber of Commerce for hosting this annual event, and I look forward to working closely with the Chamber in moving our City forward.
Given this is my first state of the city as mayor I will mainly focus on my vision for the city and my top priorities for moving this city forward.
The first essential task is to address public safety. We are all aware of the challenges that our police department has had over the years. William Riley was hired as the new police Chief and he has been tasked with reforming the Inkster police department by changing its culture and hiring practices, and creating a dialogue between the community and the police department that has been virtually non-existent throughout the past.
While violent crimes are what the media seems to highlight about our community, all of us that live and work here know there is much more to our city than that. We are making big strides in improving public safety through a number of new initiatives put forth by the Chief Riley and his staff. Just last week we were notified of an award of almost three quarters of a million dollars to hire a community relations officer, buy new police vehicles, and replace worn out, obsolete radio equipment for both police and fire.
In the coming months the police Chief will kick off a campaign to re-establish a Police Explorer Post within our police department allowing local youth to get involved and learn about law enforcement, and establish a pool of potential candidates for police officers when they reach an appropriate age.
A more focused community relations program including increasing our block clubs and neighborhood watch groups, and re-vitalizing some of those already in existence will be made much easier through the hiring of a Community Police Officer. Furthermore, the Police Chef and I are currently in the process of increasing Police Department related youth activities in order to engage our young people in civic leadership.
We will be working on a new PAL (Police Athletic League) with the Inkster Recreation Department, allowing for positive interaction between the youth and our police. The chief is working with the Boy Scouts of America to implement a summer youth camp giving our youth some much needed attention. As the Inkster Police Department transforms into a community policing, and data driven department, having our police officers actually living in our city is one of our goals, I am convinced that having police officers living in our community that work for our department can only help make our neighborhoods safer, and I believe those officers will have more of a vested interest in their own neighborhoods.
With that in mind, Chief Riley has created a home ownership program to encourage our police officers to live in our community. The city would sell a police officer a home at a discounted price with the agreement that the officer would renovate it and live in the home for a number of years. We believe this will increase the number of our police officers who actually live in our city, while at the same time putting residential properties back on the tax rolls which creates more revenue for the city.
I am also challenging apartment owners and managers within the city to offer discounted leasing rates to our public safety personnel. Having a police officer live in your complex would be a win-win for everyone.
In march a new Auxiliary Police Training class will begin, and we will gain approximately twenty more volunteers after they graduate, enhancing what is known nationally as the one of the best Auxiliary Police / Reserve programs in existence. Volunteers in police service are an important part of the daily operations of the Inkster Police Department, and I would like to take a brief moment to recognize them for their service.
As the city looks to bring in additional revenue we look forward to increasing our numbers in the police department, along with increasing our use of technology to enhance the services we provide to our residents. In my first 90 days as mayor, I have successfully created a public/private partnership with our businesses in the community to hire an additional 5 police officers during the next fiscal year at no expense to the taxpayers. Our business leaders understand how important safety is for all of us who live and work in this community and many of them are committed to work with us to move this city forward.
I am excited to announce that one of our local business owners, Iman Pasha has committed to providing two scholarships annually to Inkster residents who are interested in law enforcement so they can attend the police academy. The cost of these scholarships will be approximately $14,000. In that spirit, I am challenging other businesses and faith based organizations to match the Iman scholarship offer so we can increase the number home grown police officers in our community.
In the last year the fire department has brought in almost 2 million dollars from the distressed cities grant and the Safer grant under the leadership of Chief John Adams. They recently hired 10 new fire fighters and intend to hire 2 more. Currently, they are managing the demolition of 75 blighted homes in the city of Inkster, and we will be applying for additional federal funds to remove even more blighted properties in our city.
Just as important the fire department has been tremendously active in the community recently hosting an open house that was extremely well attended, and as well as hosting numerous fire safety educational presentations.
Counsel and I have already started creating policies to provide additional oversight for our city employees that will help us evaluate their job performance and give us the tools and information to improve our employment processes and systems. Our employees have done an admirable job over the last 3 ½ years working as a skeleton crew in an attempt to provide our residents with the city services that they pay for via their property taxes.
Like our police department, many of the other departments in the city have been existing and operating on shoe string budget, and even so, our city employees have put forth tremendous effort to provide services to the citizens. From the clerks at city hall to the water and sewer maintenance personnel, they deserve a big thank you! Each and every employee keeps our city running for you every day.
As the highest elected official in the city, I believe it is my responsibility, along with city council to make changes as necessary in how our government operates so that it is efficient and beneficial for the needs of our community. As residents we have to expect more, and as leaders in this great community we have to do better.
We will sink or swim together.
After 51 years of the current city charter……
After 8 city managers in 16 years…….
After the dissolution of our public school system….
And After accumulating a 12 million dollars deficit in just three years under our former city manager,
Which was followed by a takeover of our city via “consent agreement” with the state of Michigan who appointed a “Pseudo Emergency Manager” in the form of our own Treasurer, to run our city.
It’s time to change our form of government to something that actually works for us.
The time for letting others come into our community and make decisions for us, that don’t benefit us is over.
We need to Govern ourselves……..
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result…
Let’s look at the other communities close to us who have a city manager form of government:
- Highland Park
- Allen Park
- Lincoln Park
All have city manager forms of government and they all have been taken over by the state of Michigan by an appointment of an Emergency Manager or by being forced into a Consent Agreement with the state.
Now let’s look at the other cities around us who have their elected officials run their governments.
- Dearborn Heights
All these cities are doing well and they all have various versions of a mayor council form of government.
In these cities the mayor is the chief executive officer in the city and runs the day to day operations. The city councils are typically the legislative branch and work directly with the mayor to lead their communities.
I would even throw the city of Detroit into the last group of cities which is now growing and doing well with a mayor counsel form of government.
If that is not enough to persuade you that we need to govern ourselves, I have one word for you
We need a government of the people, by the people, and for the people………..
Anything else is antidemocratic and anti us.
It is our responsibility to reform our city charter and change our form of government to benefit us. We should never again allow others to come into our community, and make decisions for us.
I am proposing that we adopt a form of government where the mayor is the chief executive officer of our city, and the city council is the legislature body of our city. The city council would have veto power over the mayor on any decision with a two thirds vote. This is the check and balance system of power that our nation was founded upon. Most importantly both the mayor and city council would be accountable to the residents of the city of Inkster. And if the elected officials do not carry out the wishes of the people they can be removed by the people. Currently there is no check and balance on the powers of the city manager, that is in the hands of the city’s residents.
For too long we have been ignoring the young people in our community. Financial struggles have caused us to offer less in activities for our children. Calvin Hayes and I have recently started the
Positive Youth Alliance which will be a nonprofit organization to assist our already established youth programs, and also to develop new programing in the areas of sports, the arts, girl scouts and boy scouts, and other clubs like robotics, theater, and debate.
Council and I have decided to reestablish the youth commission in our city. Councilman Jewell Jones will be the elected official working directly with the young commissioners. This commission will be made up of our children and will meet regularly like any other commission. We want to make sure we engage our youth and let them tell us from their perspective what they would like to see happening in our community.
Your newly elected officials have every intention of bringing back a school system to the city of Inkster. Meetings are taking place, and the foundation is being laid right now in order to create a new place of learning for our children. I believe we must think outside the box in order to build something that will truly benefit our children and our community in the long run. Lets face it, the current system of education is failing our youth. There needs to be a paradigm shift in education and I would like it to start here in Inkster. I envision a holistic institution that will cultivate in our children a love of learning, so that they are equipped for a successful and happy adulthood whether that means after graduating high school they go to Harvard to be come a doctor of physics or to School Craft College to become a chef.
I’m currently attempting to secure the land that used to house our schools before our district was dismantled. Unfortunately, the State has already demolished all but one of our buildings, so it is now time for us to get our land back and develop new schools for our children.
Our senior citizens are the most vibrant, engaged, loyal and hard working group in our community.
Over the last couple of years we have struggled to just maintain the level of services for our seniors. Along with our youth, we have to restore as a priority in our community the programing and services we offer our seniors. We need to expand our recreational center to accommodate the needs of both our youth and seniors. This can’t just be an after-thought, it has to be a priority. Some of the programing I would like to help make happen for our older residents are water aerobics, massage therapy, cooking classes, and poker tournaments.
My Vision IS
We will be a city, free from state government intervention - allowing us to make decisions for ourselves. No one knows better than us what we need. We will rebuild our business community in collaboration with the Inkster Chamber of Commerce and local businesses so that our residents and people from surrounding communities will want to patronize our city establishments. This will be done by developing a city center area that will be located where our former city hall, police and fire stations still stand. I envision this being the center piece of our community which will be used to attract new residents and businesses to the city.
We will increase the programing for our children and seniors which will include making the swimming pool operational and expanding the recreation center to accommodate more of our residents.
Furthermore, we will create an enriching and high achieving school system for our youth.
Once we finish removing the blighted homes in our city, we will redevelop some of our residential areas which will include finishing the developments at Annapolis Pointe and Stratford Place.
plan to work closely with the newly appointed Director of Inkster Housing Martel Armstrong on crime reduction efforts in and around housing areas, the beautification of housing areas, and improving the quality of life issues effecting residents in Inkster Housing.
As part of this vision we must have a model police department that will be connected with our residents and dedicated to making the city of Inkster a safe place to live, work, and play. Attracting new businesses, attracting new residents, and improving our tax base are dependent upon us creating a safe, secure city. With an emphasis on public safety, we will attract new residents, businesses, and visitors to our beautiful community.
No matter what obstacles that we will have to overcome there is:
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
I would like to thank you all for taking the time to be here tonight, as we write the next chapter for our city, with all of us working together we will once again be one of Michigan’s most desirable zip codes! Thank You.
Inkster City Council
Front Row: Mayor Byron Nolen
Second Row (l-r):
Councilperson District III Sandra K. Watley, Councilperson
District VI De Atriss Richardson, Councilperson District II
Clarence Oden, Jr, Councilperson District IV Jewell Jones,
Councilperson District V Kim Howard, Councilperson District I
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