Reporting

Edited and summarized by the Detroit - MI Documenters Team

Note-taking by Lauren Ridenour

City officials worked to explain why water charges went up for residents and businesses. Councilmembers unanimously approved a more than $15,900 grant to fund license plate reader technology; police said it has mostly helped them find stolen vehicles.

Live reporting by Amy Senese

City officials work to explain increased residential water rates. Councilmembers disagree on a new option to purchase process for developers. Councilmembers unanimously approve an almost $16K grant that Highland Park police will use to fund license plate reader technology

amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese
Hey Detroit AND Highland Park! Tonight at 7pm, I'll be live tweeting the Highland Park City Council for #DETdocumenters
@DetDocumenters media partners: @media_outlier @BridgeDet313 @freep @PlanetDetroit @wdet @metrotimes @chalkbeatDET @MichiganRadio @wxyzdetroit

03:50 PM Feb 5, 2024 CST

amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 2/60
The meeting will take place in person at 12050 Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, with a virtual meeting option, and broadcast on YouTube.
Click on this link for the virtual meeting link.
highlandparkmi.gov/Government/Cit…
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 3/60
The agenda for tonight is pictured here and can be found at this link:
highlandparkmi.gov/getattachment/…
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 4/60
Here's some recent reporting out of Highland Park:
"Janice Taylor-Bibbs received a new federally funded house intended for lower-income residents"
metrotimes.com/news/judge-boo…
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 5/60
#DETdocumenters began coverage of Highland Park City Council last year at this time when the council members had just been elected and were holding their first meetings.
Find all Highland Park coverage here:
detroit.documenters.org/reporting/?age…
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 6/60
More reporting from @media_outlier of Highland Park a year ago:
outliermedia.org/highland-park-…
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 7/60
That's all for now, see you at 7pm!
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 8/60
Walked into the meeting (in person) with a debate over approving the agenda. I believe they are speaking to issues around the Treasurer Janice Taylor-Bibbs. There is a resolution on the table. It hasn't been recieved and filed by the clerk.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 9/60
I believe Khursheed Ash-Shafii wanted a discussion.
Agenda approved with Item 7 removed.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 10/60
Looks like I posted an older agenda earlier. Here’s tonight’s agenda with item 7 removed.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 11/60
The Mayor of Highland Park is now speaking to a letter from the Highland Park Water Department. The water rates went up. I have a handout I'll share later. They are working to negotiate a legal settlement with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA).
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 12/60
Mayor McDonald says it will be a $50-$60 increase per month on the water department instead of a tax increase, according to the mayor. "We're trying to save your house." speaking directly to the audience.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 13/60
Call 313-252-0050 ext 240.
Call the Mayor's office with questions on the executive side. Mayor urging residents that they are not going to get answers on Facebook.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 14/60
If the deal falls through, the rates go down and residents will get reimbursed. They are mandated to charge this amount as they work out the deal with GLWA. GLWA has the right to go to court and put a levy back on residents' taxes.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 15/60
The Mayor is laying out this is a difference of a $50-60 increase on the water bill, versus a $5000 increase on taxes if there is a levy. Residents are asking why the deal could potentially not go through.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 16/60
A city official likely from the water department is apologizing for the rollout of the increase, saying that there should have been more PR around the increase. "People still don't understand the (water)bill."
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 17/60
As part of this deal, they have to get meters in the ground, and other aspects of infrastructure that’s lacking.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 18/60
Now onto public comment on any agenda item.
Comment about lots being sold and then approved to sell by City Council. A majority approval is required.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 19/60
Asking what RFQs stands for, but that item is pulled off the agenda. RFQ means a request for funding. She is also asking about a flyer passed out. She didn't have an agenda question, so they are encouraging her to speak on general public comment.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 20/60
Encouraging the council to accept the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the amount of $15,919.48 from Wayne County.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 21/60
Here's the correct online agenda, I posted an older agenda earlier.
highlandparkmi.gov/getattachment/…
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 22/60
They are now discussing approval of the option to purchase lots at 13321 Hamilton, 18 W. Grand and 30 W. Grand. Ash-Shafii is pushing back over procedure. He's saying what's missing is financials, site plan reports, building, fire, police reports, DPW, traffic reports, etc.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 23/60
The option to purchase process is new.
Ash Shafii passed out this document for β€œsite plan submission process” that he wants developers and the City to follow.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 24/60
Ash-Shafii pulled this document from the Highland Park City website, but it may not be the most updated information. There's a back-and-forth on this.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 25/60
Manica is saying they don't lose anything by giving them an option to purchase. It's the chance for the developer to show them what he can do. She's saying they don't lose any money by doing so.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 26/60
Ash-Shafii is saying they shouldn't break this rule, because they're going to have to alter it for every developer that comes through.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 27/60
Thomas is bringing the attention back to the agenda items.
Motion carries, with Martin and Ash-Shafii voting no. Ash-Shafii is talking over Thomas, saying no, it does not carry. Option to Purchase is approved for A and B.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 28/60
This grant is up for approval now. The grant, for Highland Park Police, can be used for law enforcement programs, drug treatment, witness programs, mental health, veterans,
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 29/60
The Highland Park police chief is saying they would use the grant for an existing program that installs cameras and helps to apprehend stolen vehicles and apprehend felons. He's saying if they have funds left, they will have a community event.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 30/60
Item 6 is approved.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 31/60
Now onto general public comment.
Asking about the water rate increase. She's telling the water department they could have included an explainer and more information when they send out the water bill.
A: It's going to be included in the next bill mailing.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 32/60
#2. Speaking to the site-control question. Agrees with President Thomas. Suggesting they have a workshop to explore new language and update the policies/ordinances so it will be easier for developers to come and get site plan approval.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 33/60
#3. Trying to find out what's happening with Mariuana buisnesses. There's a new one being opened without an ordinance in the city. There are a lot of illegal grow operations happening in the city.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 34/60
The Police Chief said they know where these operations are, but they can't legally go in. They have lost litigation in the past. "There's a process. We can't go kicking in people's doors, they have rights."
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 35/60
#4. Commenter asked what Cathy Square, the City Administrator does for the city. The water department and agreement with GLWA will be an ongoing issue for the city. The Uniform Budget Act also informs her job. The city is supposed to come to her for advice.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 36/60
Cathy Square, "not here to manage politicians." Square, as City Administrator is here to manage the city's finances.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 37/60
#5. Asking if the council agrees 100% with the GLWA water agreement, asking if they feel positive enough to sign it. Residents don't want bills to go up, with rising costs everywhere.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 38/60
Cathy Square is answering.
A: Between now and next Thursday (Feb 15) we need to have a meeting. There are 5 agreements out there, the GLWA water agreement, the scheduled workshop for Jan 25 was canceled. The settlement that ties everything together by the 15th.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 39/60
They are trying to hammer out issues that the different parties agree on.
This agreement needs to be decided on by Feb. 15th, which was extended from Jan 15th.
When residents pay their water bill, it goes into an escrow trust until the agreement is final.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 40/60
Square said to look out for a special meeting notice before the 15th. She said this is a good thing for the City. Highland Park is fighting to defend their position. If they don't make this agreement, there will be a levy on the City of HP and potential bankruptcy.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 41/60
Comment #6. More questions to Cathy Square. Asking about a lawsuit against Mr. Blackwell.
A: These were not city lawsuits.
Cathy Square is speaking to the Highland Park lawsuit against the landbank.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 42/60
Q: Asking about accountability over structures that need to be torn down or could be fixed up. Why aren't they holding derelict property owners accountable?
she was encouraged to reach out to the water department.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 43/60
Comment #7. A developer offering services, speaking to challenges of the city to attract developers, etc.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 44/60
Comment #8: Still owns lots in the city, even though he doesn't live here. His family has a long history here. Worried about the water bill burden that will fall on residents. Also asking about employment, he's been waiting to hear from HR.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 45/60
Comment #9: Nathan Harvey. Asking if there are any questions for him since he was on the agenda. Thanked the council for approving the option to purchase back on items V a & b.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 46/60
Comment #10. Saying that when they voted on Items V a-b they didn't have a true majority.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 47/60
Now onto Council Affairs.
Ash-Shafii is up first. Saying that everytime they take 2 steps forward, they take 2 steps back. He's upset that the approval for Mr. Harvey's lots was not the correct process. He doesn't think Harvey will be back with any further info.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 48/60
Ash-Shafii is saying they could get sued at a later date if they vote down a development since they set a precedent with Harvey's option to purchase approval.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 49/60
Ash-Shafii is also saying they need to move quickly on replacing Janice Taylor-Bibbs.
"Every member up here works for you."
Has a quick question for Square. When did we get the extension to move the GLWA agreement to the Feb 15th?
A: that was done by the Attorney General.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 50/60
Square continued....There was a term sheet approved as a resolution by the Highland Park City council last October. The city has done everything expected of them during this process.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 51/60
Ash-Shafii is asking residents in the audience to "stand up and fight for this city."
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 52/60
Council Member Kallela Martin, District 2 is speaking now. Surprised to hear about job postings.
Has a question and is unsure if the Treasurer position has been posted.
Appreciates the questions about GLWA.
Plans to be at the meeting w/ Chang at Nandi's Cafe on Friday at 10am.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 53/60
Council Member Temeko Manica, District 1 is speaking now. Speaking to arguments that should be dealt with outside of public meetings, when there are important issues like the GLWA agreement to discuss.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 54/60
Council President Pro Tem, Sharmaine Robinson is thanking residents for their prayers for a family member.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 55/60
Council President Jamal K. Thomas is asking people to look at the screen to see the "Development Tracker" for the City of Detroit. He said he's just been introduced to this website, put out by Detour Detroit.
developmenttracker.detourdetroiter.com
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 56/60
Thomas is now responding to the question about the water deal with GLWA, and if he agrees with it.
The prospect of people losing their homes over this is terrifying to him.
Speaking to sitting across the table with GLWA, he said "We were outgunned..."
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 57/60
Thomas does agree with what's happening now with the GLWA contract because the alternative is much worse.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 58/60
The meeting adjourned at 9:01 pm.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 59/60
This concludes my coverage of the Highland Park City Council meeting on Feb 5th for #DetDocumenters
If you believe anything in this coverage today is inaccurate, please email documenters@outliermedia.org w/ "Correction Request" in the subject line.
amy k senese πŸ‰ @amysenese 60/60
More coverage at
detroit.documenters.org

Attachments

Agency Information

Highland Park City Council

Pursuant to the Highland Park Charter, Chapters 5 and 6, the City Council of Highland Park is comprised of 5 members; 2 at-large and one from each council district. The council exercises all of the legislative powers of the city, except as otherwise stated by law, and provides for the public’s peace and health, and for the safety of persons and property.

The council meets in regular session in the established Council Chamber on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month.

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