News

By : Jon Szerlag

TO MAKE CHANGE, YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO SEE IMMEDIATE RESULTS. Sometimes it’s opening peoples’ eyes and minds to a thought, an idea. That is what one local Ferndale resident did when she went for a walk one day in late August near the Wilson Park.

As construction at the site of the former Taft School began (see adjoining article), Shannon O’Brien, a resident of Ferndale for about 25 years and Ferndale Friends Circulation Manager, noticed trees that were marked to be cut down. Already feeling a little disheartened, she remembered taking her son when he was younger to the park, and how he would sit under the trees for shade.

Piece by piece (trees and nature) are disappearing,” O’Brien said. “When my son was in kindergarten, we would go to this park and it was great. I never thought about it at that time.”

While the city landscape has changed, O’Brien said cutting down these old trees which have stood for more than 100 years, and a philosophy of developing every inch of space, is not characteristic of the Ferndale she loves.

O’BRIEN WENT HOME WANTING TO DO SOMETHING to try and save the trees. Then she had an idea: She looked around for something to write on but all she could find was a brown paper bag. She made a quick sign that simply read, “SAVE ME! I am 150+ years old. I cannot be replaced. Please think about my bottom line, not just yours.” Then she marched down to the park and hung it on one of the trees.

Not thinking her brown paper bag sign would have much of an impact, she was surprised to find that within several days signatures started to show up on her sign, which stayed tied to the tree on the south side of the former campus. Before she knew it, there were more than 50 signatures on her sign, and the brown square with her words printed on it stayed until it was one of the last few trees standing.

While the trees were not spared, O’Brien’s spirits were lifted not only by the people who signed her statement, but also stepped up to try to save other trees throughout the city of Ferndale as others began posting similar signs. And her tiny campaign sparked a minor fury around town on social media, and led to articles in Oakland County Times and an interview with Channel 7 WXYZ News.

When she went to where the tree once stood, after work as a caregiver, the tree was now only a stump. O’Brien went and counted the rings. 127 in total.

O’Brien does not know what will happen next, but her love for trees and finding a balance between development and preserving the rich and old natural habitat of the city will continue to be on her mind. She has reach-ed out to the developer and city officials, and if she can find others to help her she may start reaching out more in a grassroots effort.

While development, growth and progression will most likely continue in our city and others, O’Brien is becoming more hopeful that developers and City officials will be more conscious of the area’s natural habitat.

“My son said to me, ‘Do one thing different, and it will make a change,’” O’Brien said. “One small thing can make a difference: ask questions, ask for support or join an organization. I want to bring more consciousness and am thinking of reaching out to different organizations like the Historical Society to see if there is interest (in preserving nature in the city.

O’Brien is not discouraged by the trees at the park being cut down. The community’s input, signatures and surprising kindness has given her hope for Ferndale, and the surrounding area’s natural beauty and heritage.
“One of my friends said she loves what I am doing, and how I am doing it in a peaceful way,” O’Brien said.

“Where there is a will there is a way.”

STORY BY: Sara E. Teller
Photo By: Bernie LaFramboise

OAK PARK CITY MANAGER ERIK TUNGATE ALWAYS WANTED HIS CAREER to be about more than just titles and financial rewards. “Money has never been a motivating factor for me; people are,” he explains. “I wanted to have a career that focused on improving people’s lives. Human beings come first, and  consideration for their safety and general welfare is always my top priority. We – myself, my staff and our public safety officers – all share the same position.”

Originally from Southwestern Michigan near Kalamazoo, he relocated to Detroit in 1999. “At the time, I didn’t know anyone here,” he said. “But it was the best decision I ever made.” His areas of expertise include community and economic development at the state level with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and strong financial management as a Senior Financial Credit Analyst in the banking industry, as well as positions within local, county, and state levels of government. Prior to accepting the position of Oak Park City Manager in 2012, he held the same role in Hamtramck.

Tungate was attracted to Oak Park, because he sincerely believes “…the potential for dramatic improvement in this city is tremendous. Oak Park is a new frontier for economic development. On top of that we have the ability to provide superior public amenities in a culture of excellence. Oak Park was a diamond in the rough when I came here. I was shocked by the incredible opportunity that lies within this community.”

Shortly after his arrival in Oak Park, he made a few departmental additions. “We instituted a Human Resources Department and an economic development function back then,” he explains, adding, “You know, when cities are financially struggling, the natural reaction is to bunker down. Finding cost-efficiencies in every nook and cranny should always be a part of the operation, but I believe you also need to deploy a plan to grow the tax base. And you do this through building an economic development machine like the one we now have in Oak Park.”

Under Tungate’s leadership, FedEx Ground also decided to open a distribution center in Oak Park, the largest land deal in the city’s history. “There was so much vacant land where the old armory once stood. The shipping company was attracted to Oak Park’s easy access to freeways and proximity to major transportation thoroughfares,” Tungate said. “The city also has the ability to attract and meet the housing demand of new employees with its affordable housing stock. This one development alone increased jobs, spurred small business development (trucking contractors), and helped us grow our tax base.”

Although he believes Oak Park has already changed dramatically, there is one thing Tungate would like to see: The push for more mixed-use development. Tungate credits the hard work of Economic Development and Communications Director Kimberly Marrone whom he hired in 2014, for the growth the city has seen in this area over the last few years with the Jefferson Oaks redevelopment and Coolidge Place projects among others. He adds, “Millennials and seniors are being priced out of housing in other suburbs and in parts of the City of Detroit. Oak Park is still able to provide great, affordable housing opportunities. Oak Park has taken a front row seat in pushing for these kinds of developments.”

Not only is Tungate invested in Oak Park, but he holds high hopes for the Detroit region, “Having the cross-state familiarity that I do, and with the economic climate that we now face, it’s what motivates me and makes me want to get the entire state of Michigan running on all cylinders. There’s a formula we have to find to bring our unique interests together for the welfare of all of us. Unfortunately, right now there’s too much division.” Working with other communities on projects or to make change promotes the regionalism in the area and allows the entire region to prosper.

Tungate realizes the value in connecting with Oak Park’s other adjoining communities. Speaking specifically of the Nine Mile Redesign, which Tungate credits Ferndale for starting the trend, he says it offers an excellent opportunity to create an interconnectedness. “Working with our friends in Ferndale, who led the charge with their own redesign, we’ve been able to plan for wonderful public amenities in our own plan. We’re an inner ring suburb that borders Detroit, so we have unique population density. Creating pocket parks and providing bike trails with tremendous amenities is what Oak Park should be looking at doing.”

He says that rather than secluding the city from the other side of 8 Mile Rd., there has been a push to open it up. “Turning away from our southern border with Detroit would be a tremendous mistake. Let’s open the door to all of the possibilities a strong partnership with Detroit can provide.”

With this in mind, new restaurant owners are able to secure a liquor license in the once-dry city. This new economic development tool that enables new restaurants to secure a Class “C” liquor license for under $2,000 helped us to attract a new destination restaurant, “8MK.” “8MK” is a restaurant currently under development by the Union Joints Restaurant Group which also owns The Clarkston Union, Union General, Union Woodshop, Woodshop Shop, Vinsetta Garage, Fenton Fire Hall, Pumphouse and Honcho. “When the opportunity for 8MK came to us, we pounced on it for two reasons – we were able to preserve a historic building, and it helped open us up to 8 Mile Rd.” 8MK occupies space once held by the WWJ transmitter building and 8MK is a reference to the station’s original call letters.

Tungate is focused on maintaining the city’s diversity. “Oak Park is the eighth-most diverse city in Michigan, and it is a perfect example of a diverse community that gets along and works together. What I would like to see is us continuing to attract new residents who appreciate what we have to offer.

As for future endeavors, he notes, “We will be unveiling some very important development projects soon. As we continue to build the city’s pipeline, we’re attracting quality retailers and restaurants, both locally-owned and national retail chains.”

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The tower is up! And Ferndale is about to start tuning into our very own community radio station:100.7 FCR FM.

Dave Philips, secretary for FCR, said “We’re hopefully just a few weeks away. We’re trying to gather the money needed for insurance, materials and licenses. But right now we have an eclectic mix of college rock filling the airwaves on 100.7 FM, and we’re adding to that library just as fast as we can.”

The station is on the air now, with a couple of two-hour recorded loops. The station is expect-ed to go live in the weeks ahead with a full programming schedule by late November. Currently, they are building out the studio, painting, and preparing to install the final audio gear.

Philips told Ferndale Friends, “Ferndale Radio does not exist without the Rust Belt.” The Rust Belt Market owners have provided studio space rent-free, along with a place on their roof for the antenna and tower. “Chris Best and his crew have bent over backwards to welcome us, make us feel at home and help with the various steps necessary to turn a booth into a studio. We think it’s the perfect location. Every vendor here comes from a creative, artistic, DIY background. We feel the same way.”

FCR is a 100-watt LPFM (short for Low Power Frequency Modulation) station, with a projected broadcast range of two miles in any direction. The FCR signal is strong and static-free all over Ferndale. LPFM stations are required to make sure their signal does not interfere with existing, mega-watt commercial stations, including one on the same frequency in Canada.

They are looking to fill DJ and other station positions. Interested volunteers should contact ferndaleradio@gmail.com.

To contribute to Ferndale Community Radio, go to: www.chuffed.org/project/ferndale-radio Sponsors are also needed, contact ferndaleradio@gmail.com.

By David Wesley & stephanie loveless

SEVEN YEARS AFTER MICHELLE MIROWSKI LAID THE FOUNDATION for the Underwood V radio collective, and more than 20 years after free-speech activists all across the country began clamoring for access to the public airwaves…Ferndale is about to switch on the dial for our very own community radio station: 100.7 FCR FM.

The project is still in development, but as the ink dries on these pages volunteers are testing the equipment for the station. The station is expected to go live with a test signal and recorded information in the weeks ahead with a full programming schedule by Fall.

Ferndale Community Radio (FCR) is physically located inside of the Rust Belt Market at the northwest corner 9 Mile and Woodward. Owners Chris and Tiffany Best have generously offered rent-free space for the FCR broadcast studio, as well as a place on the Rust Belt roof for the essential tower and antenna.

FCR is a 100-watt LPFM (short for Low Power Frequency Modulation) station, with a projected broadcast range of perhaps two miles in any direction. We’re about to find out exactly how far FCR will reach, as soon as all the bugs get worked out. LPFM stations are required to make sure their signal does not interfere with existing, mega-watt commercial stations. Because of the congestion on the radio dial, FCR is likely to be the only LPFM station licensed in the Metro-Detroit area in the foreseeable future!

LPFM licenses are only available to community-oriented, educational, non-profit organizations. In this case, the non-profit behind FCR is Underwood V, a collective founded by Mirowski and friends. Board members include Mirowski, president; Dave Phillips, secretary/social media; Dave Kim, treasurer/promotions; Jeremy Olstyn, programming/training; and Keith Fraley, radio engineer. They are looking to fill DJ and other station positions. Interested volunteers should contact
ferndaleradio@gmail.com.

THE MISSION OF THE STATION is to provide a kind of “hyper-local programming” that is impossible to find anywhere else on the dial. Their mission statement speaks of “community engagement, promotion of community events, specialty broadcast, and more. Potential programming for the station includes: On-air book clubs, interviews with local news-makers, coverage of government and board meetings, sports coverage,” etc.

The road to Ferndale’s first and only community radio station began over 20 years ago, when LPFM stations didn’t even exist. Ferndale Friends publisher Stephanie Loveless helped lead a national movement of democracy activists who ultimately convinced Congress and the Federal Communications Commission in 2000 to create the LPFM service, so that ordinary Americans could actually use the airwaves we already own. However, the powerful broadcast industry was able to limit the new rules so that it was impossible for even one LPFM station to go on the air in all of Metro Detroit.

However, eleven years later, President Obama signed legislation which loosened those rules enough so that it finally became possible for Metro Detroit to have one LPFM station – and it had to be in Ferndale!

So, FCR is practically a miracle. Our miracle. But it only exists because Michelle and her friends stepped up and applied for a construction permit when the FCC opened up a licensing window three years ago.

That was the easy part.

Next, they had to find a physical location for the studio, antenna and tower. And there were innumerable issues involving the City of Ferndale which had to be overcome: Not too many people walk into City Hall hoping to launch a non-profit community radio station, after all. This was brand-new territory for everyone involved. They had to find an engineer and a properly-qualified team for the construction of the tower and antenna. Negotiations with the landlord, etc.

This project would also require a significant amount of money – in fact, a little over $15,000 just to get started. So, on top of everything else, our worthy Underwood V volunteers were now charged with hustling up the cash, via social media, fundraisers, and underwriting agreements with local businesses. These fundraising efforts continue, and if you are interested in contributing, go to www.ferndaleradio.com. And local businesses are encouraged to underwrite the station financially in return for generous on-air mentions.

MANY TIMES OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS, it looked as if the money would not be found, and the whole project would have to be scrapped. But FCR supporters refused to accept defeat, and in recent weeks the decision was made to start purchasing the necessary gear: FCR is GO!

With the help of The Rust Belt and tons of local donations and support, Michelle and her team are ready to make the fresh and impactful change in radio that will nourish local talent and influence Ferndale life through the years to come.

FCR will have an impact on the Rust Belt too. Shoppers will be able to hear the station inside while they shop and will be able to meet the FCR team. It will create a more unique shopping experience.

Ferndale Community Radio will give the Ferndale residents another tool to communicate with each other. FCR has given the city something extremely unique to look forward to as it’s extremely rare that a city has their own community station!

Once they are up-and-running, they plan to partner with lots of organizations in Ferndale. For example, the schools. This will also be a great forum for local musicians from all genres to have their music heard. This will be an avenue for the creative projects that make Ferndale so noteworthy. The station will be here soon – to enrich our already vibrant and talented community.

Initial Sponsors & Underwriters
Ferndale Friends
The Rust Belt Market
Jim Shaffer & Associates
Western Market
Stange Sports
Found Sound
Crane Optical
HiLo Guy
313 Brand Co.

By Sara E. Teller

MICHIGAN HAS the worst record in the nation for investing in local communities. Limiting funding at the state level greatly limits the ability of local governments to invest in the services needed to keep cities thriving. SaveMICity is an informational campaign of the Michigan Municipal League with the purpose of helping cities understand and reform municipal finance at the state level. The organization’s site boldly states, “The past is over, but we can create a new day, a new trajectory that will result in true economic growth.”

After years of working within the existing paradigms, Michigan Municipal League is undertaking a major legislative and policy push aimed at reforming the way finances are being handled with the direct purpose of encouraging renewed investment in communities. “The theme is that local units shouldn’t just be surviving, they should be thriving,” says Sheryl Stubblefield, Finance Director for the City of Ferndale. The League will be developing policy recommendations specifically around three themes: Cost Containment, Revenue Enhancement, and Structure of Government.

In partnership with the cities of Pleasant Ridge, Berkley, Ferndale, Oak Park, and Hazel Park, SaveMICity presentations are being conducted by the Michigan Municipal League throughout the month of August. Participants will find out why, as Michigan’s economy is recovering from the Great Recession, local communities continue to struggle financially. One of the major themes of the presentations is how Michigan has disinvested in local governments. “A major source of revenues for the local units is revenue-sharing from the state, and that continues to decline,” Stubblefield explains. Other themes include how the state is not appropriating funds to the local units, but diverting it to its own budget instead, and how the property tax system is broken. By using potential local funding for the statewide resources, local governments are left struggling.

“The way the Headlee Override and Proposal A have been set up, they are not working together,” Stubblefield claims, “The system was designed to cap tax growth, with no consideration for declines in tax revenues. There is no fix in the system for when property values dip as low as they have in the past ten years. Taxable values can only grow at the rate of inflation, as will the expenditures. There is no tool to get the taxes collected to where they were pre-recession. Local communities will never be able to catch up.”

SaveMICity presenters argue that current policies aimed at cutting costs and lowering services provided simply isn’t the answer. “As we systematically disinvest in our local communities, we are making our communities less attractive for people. If people don’t move to our communities, or as has been happening, move out of our communities and out of our state, we begin this downward spiral, that will be nearly impossible to recover from,” Stubblefield explains. Basically, the less communities are able to offer residents and those visiting, the less likely they are to remain populated, and the less revenue the cities generate in the long run. It’s a vicious cycle.

“We should be investing in our cities, providing communities with amenities that taxpayers are willing to support and utilize so we can create thriving communities. Increasing the tax base which will increase the tax revenues,” Stubblefield adds. If the appropriate services are provided and cities are kept desirable to live in, this will attract more residents and increase revenue. It’s a win-win.

Presenters also detail the need for tax reform at the state level. “We need informed legislators who understand the issues facing local governments and have the ability to give the local units more tools to increase investment in local communities,” says Stubblefield. The League says the answer is increasing revenues, not lowering expenditures, since local units are already operating effectively on very limited budgets. Communities need assistance from the state to continue providing desirable areas for residents to live and work. “More residents equals a higher tax base which translates to more revenues,” Stubblefield adds.

SaveMICity.com provides Michigan residents with a wealth of information regarding their local communities and the issues at hand. Inquiring minds are able to see just how much the state has taken from their specific locales via a revenue-sharing database. Sharing this information online and spreading the news to family and friends will help get the word out. “Information is power. The more people understand the process, the more involved they can become. The more legislators understand the challenges at the local level, hopefully the more involved they can become, helping foster the changes at the state level that are needed,” Stubblefield explains.

On the organization’s site, SaveMICity supporters encourage residents to “ask your legislator to rethink budget priorities and stay engaged on the broader issue of reforming our system.” The more support is garnered for initiatives designed to invest in communities for sustainable change, the more likely these changes will be made. SaveMICity is also looking for community members to help host future events. “We are taking this approach to break away from the historically limiting tactic of incremental change within the context of where we are today. We need new ideas, innovative approaches, and bold action to create a new future for communities around Michigan,” the site explains.

Sheryl says the message will be a “a continuous conversation until local units can get some relief by way of tax reform.” “By employing community-based placemaking strategies, we strengthen both our economic and social future.”

Story By: Jason Shubnell

Ferndale residents have been wondering about the “Fab Cab” trolley system for months now.

“Have been waiting. Is this happening or what?” wrote one Facebook user.

“We’ve been waiting for this all summer. What’s holding it up? Parking in Ferndale is tight, and Royal Oak is getting to be nearly impossible,” echoed another.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to keep waiting. The City told Ferndale Friends that there is no update at this time and to check back in during the Fall.

What Is A Fab Cab?
For those who may not know, the cities of Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Detroit are discussing plans to partner on a proposed trolley system that would make stops along Woodward Avenue. The pilot program would be a circular system modeled after the K-Line route in the Grosse Pointes and the trolley in Troy.

“We have this concept we call Fab Cab,” Jordan Twardy, Ferndale’s economic development director told the Detroit Free Press in March. The trolley “would link key destinations with free ridership on a rubber-tired trolley car, augmented if demand is strong by SMART’s small connector buses that seat 12 to 15 people. The new service would roll from 10 A.M. until Midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.”

Who Will Participate?
Pleasant Ridge officials voted to allocate $10,000 for the first year of the service. The Detroit Zoo is being asked to allocate $30,000. Detroit was pegged at $50,000.

Pleasant Ridge’s James Breuckman said, “We are ready to go, but we are a small partner. Ferndale is contributing much more to the project, so they have some larger issues to work out before the system is a go. There’s also the fact that this is a regional partnership with the Zoo and multiple Cities, so there are a number of governance, oversight, and funding issues that need to be resolved before the service can start. The last time I spoke with Ferndale about it, they were working through those issues.”

Royal Oak was asked to contribute $50,000 for the first year, but City elected officials want to see more details before putting up any money. Todd Fenton, Royal Oak’s economic development manager, said the Downtown Development Authority is taking a wait-and-see approach.

“They basically said come back in a year,” Fenton told the Daily Tribune in March. We checked back in with Todd in late July, and nothing has changed.

“There is no update from the City of Royal Oak with regard to the proposal,” Fenton told Ferndale Friends. “It is my understanding that Ferndale is continuing to work out the logistics and provide more detail for the plan. Once it has finished its diligence, we will meet again to discuss.”

Community Response
Fenton said it’s too early to say how this trolley system has been received by Royal Oak residents.

“I think it’s been overshadowed by a lot of other developments in the city.  Your question was the first I have received since April about ‘Fab Cab,’” he said.

The Free Press reported that “Grosse Pointe Park City Manager Dale Krajniak [said] the trolley pays off in hard dollars. As Grosse Pointe Park’s Kercheval dining and microbrewery district became a hot destination in the last several years, the City saved “a significant capital expense” by adding the trolley service instead of building parking lots, Krajniak said.”

Parking issues, huh? That’s one thing Ferndale could use some help with.

According to documents submitted to Royal Oak officials, the Free Press reported “dollars from local governments — including Detroit — would support the free rides, but after that the hope is for commercial sponsors and advertising on the buses to pick up the tab for Fab Cab.”

One Facebook user said, “I’m all for it. Getting picked up near my house and riding to Ferndale and back, bar-hopping, shopping, zoo trips, etc. This would be awesome. I’ve been waiting to see this start. The Livernois corridor would also be very worthy stops on the route. Fingers crossed!”

Looks like his fingers will be crossed a little while longer…

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By Sara E. Teller & stephanie loveless

KAT BRUNER JAMES IS THE KIND OF PERSON that turns a neighborhood into a community. Elks Citizen of the Year in 2015, she brings a civic commitment to Ferndale which everyone admires.

She moved to Ferndale in 2002, and joined Citizens for a Fair Ferndale in 2005 and eventually became Chairperson for the group. Her brother Bob Bruner served as City Manager of Ferndale from 2007 to 2011. She married jazz musician Joshua James in 2006, and graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy with a law degree in 2007. Her most recent contribution and gift to Ferndale came last December, when she gave birth to daughter Magnolia Bruner James.

Bruner James was also one of the four core members of the group that put Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) on the ballot here in Ferndale in 2004. “I can’t remember exactly how our little team first began our efforts, but eventually I became the treasurer and volunteer coordinator of our ballot question commit-tee,” she explains. That campaign succeeded, with more than 70 per cent of Ferndale coming out in favor of using Instant Runoff Voting for future mayoral and council races.

Instant Runoff Voting, also known as ranked choice voting, allows the voter to rank their choice of candidates, from first to last. The process ensures that no candidate can be elected with less than 50 per cent support of the voters.

Bruner-James jumped at the idea to reform the traditional voting system in those days. “On the heels of the 2000 presidential ‘selection’ it was obvious that our electoral system was badly broken in several fundamental ways,” she recalls. “Even though a majority of Americans voted for a more progressive candidate – either Al Gore or Ralph Nader – the rules of our system allowed a conservative candidate to be the plurality winner. IRV emerged as a viable reform that, if enacted, would lead to a more democratic result.”

Despite success at the polls, as you probably know – Ferndale still does not use IRV. Why? For years, the excuse given was that Michigan’s voting machines were not capable of the simple calculations necessary to determine the winner. New machines recently certified by the State of Michigan are IRV-capable. However, now the State and County are presenting new roadblocks.

Following the IRV campaign, Bruner-James focused on priorities which have helped position herself as a community advocate. “I went to law school in the Fall of 2004 and graduated in 2007. Since then, I’ve been a civil rights litigator, primarily representing victims of police misconduct.” However, her feelings regarding IRV have not changed. “Using IRV on a local level is the starting point to seeing IRV – or other major reforms –enacted on a national level,” she says, adding that these efforts are especially needed following the most recent presidential election. “For the second time in my adult life, a third-party candidate is being blamed for ‘spoiling’ a presidential election. And rather than working to make our political system function in a way that reflects the will of the people, progressives are distracted by blaming each other. IRV would reduce the ability for electoral manipulation and result in a true majority winner.”

“However, there are very practical challenges to getting it implemented,” she explains. “The first hurdle is a combination of technology and political will. IRV implementation ideally requires certain software that can properly read and calculate IRV votes, which naturally work a bit differently than your standard vote tally – not to mention, ballots them-selves need to be adjusted.” And, everyone needs to be on the same page to effectively roll out the new system.

Those who manage the voting machines, such as clerks and legislators, will need to be willing to invest in the appropriate software. And, “when implementation becomes imminent, a public education campaign will be critical,” Kat explains. “Having worked with the City Clerk’s office recently on a committee, I believe that they have the energy and the desire to handle this very well when the time comes.”

www.firv.org
www.fairvote.org/rcv#rcvbenefits
www.rankedchoicevoting.org

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Story by Maggie Boleyn
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

HAVE YOU MET DR. DANIA BAZZI, FERNDALE PUBLIC SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT YET? Dr. Bazzi accepted the position of Superintendent this past July, and embraced her new role with great enthusiasm.

“I’m excited to be part of Ferndale Schools,” Bazzi said. “Everyone has been very friendly.”

Ferndale Schools is a wide-ranging district, in geographic as well as socio-economic terms, serving the cities of Oak Park, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, and the Charter Township of Royal Oak. Over 3,000 students are enrolled each year. The district’s school settings include an early childcare center, two elementary schools, a
middle school, two high schools, and one alternative/adult education program.

Dr. Bazzi said “the diverse culture and strong community” within the district played a big part in her decision to apply to Ferndale Schools. Bazzi wants everyone to feel they are a part of Ferndale Schools. “A strong school community will have benefits that extend to the entire community.”

Immediately prior to coming to Ferndale Schools, Bazzi served as Superintendent, of Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools in southwest Michigan, in the Battle Creek-Kalamazoo area. Bazzi grew up in southeast Michigan, and is happy to return and be closer to family members.

The Board of Education is equally pleased with Bazzi’s return to this side of the state. “We are thrilled with the selection of Dr. Dania Bazzi,” said Ferndale Schools Board of Education President Jennifer LaTosch in a statement at the time of Bazzi’s hire. “Dr. Bazzi has demonstrated all of the characteristics the Board was seeking in the next lead learner of Ferndale Schools. We are very excited to have her join our school family.” Bazzi was chosen from a field of 49 applicants for the position.

Bazzi obtained her degrees from University of Michigan-Dearborn and Wayne State University. She brings a marvelous mix of private and public sector experience to her position. Prior to embarking on her educational career, Bazzi worked as a Project Management Consultant for Ford Motor Company. She also has solid teaching experience, having worked for five years as a high school
math teacher.

“My experience at Ford taught me about private sector skills,” Bazzi said. “You might be in a cubicle, but there’s no working in isolation.” Bazzi obtained her master’s degree in education while working at Ford. She left Ford to teach math at John Glenn High School in Westland.

Not surprisingly, Bazzi has fond memories of teachers who helped shape her life experiences and career path. Bazzi credits her high school math teacher for encouraging her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, which eventually led to her own career in education.

Dr. Bazzi described herself as “a shy student.” She credits a drama teacher who also served as a debate coach in helping overcome shyness and honing good speaking skills. “She encouraged me to compete,” Bazzi said. “My sister was great at debating, but I didn’t think I could do this.” Bazzi said her teacher “instilled confidence in me and pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

Bazzi remembers her drama teacher saying, “You only think you’re not capable.” Bazzi said the experience had a big impact on her life, and “allowed me to try something new, and it broke my shyness.” Bazzi said, had her teacher not pushed for achievement, and encouraged trying new things, she would never have known her own public speaking abilities.

Bazzi said she plans to continue the work currently being done with the School Board, staff, students, and community. Making connections with students and giving students a foundation to be successful in continuing education are also key priorities.

She is eager to establish relationships and make connections with the entire community, including staff and students. She wants all to “have access” to the Superintendent’s office. Since beginning her new duties in July, Bazzi has met with the Mayor, and other officials. A public “meet and greet” held on July 26 provided residents an opportunity to ask questions in person. Dr. Bazzi said that anyone unable to attend the “meet and greet” could arrange a one-on-one meeting with her. “Send me an email, and we’ll coordinate calendars,” she offered.

Dr. Bazzi looks forward to September and resuming back to school routines. “School buildings are lonely without the voices of children in the hallways,” she said.

Story By: Sara E. Teller
Photos By: David McNair

THE FERNDALE FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH HOSTS A “Community Dinner” the last Wednesday of every month for “anyone who wants to come,” according to Mary Lenaway, a long-time member. “It’s not limited to church members or the needy. Everyone is welcome.”

There is often a large turnout, particularly in the winter months, and volunteers are greatly appreciated. “Typically, during the winter, between the volunteers and the people who come in, we get around 100 people,” Mary explains, adding that “help and donations are always accepted and appreciated.”

There is a sign-up sheet in the church’s social hall for anyone willing to donate their time. Sometimes groups, and sometimes individual church members host the event, according to Mary. “We ask people to sign up for one month, and a core group of volunteers from the Methodist Church and Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church are always involved.” She adds, “They come out to run the dishwasher and do various tasks, but we are always looking for new people to head up a group, do the cooking.” The church is specifically looking for volunteers for meals in August and September.

The First United Methodist Church has historically spread awareness of the community dinners online in the Ferndale Forum (ferndale.freeforums.net), on its website, Facebook and other social media sites. Leaders also rely on word of mouth and on literature distributed within the church as well as posted signage and bulletins. When asked how long the church has been hosting the meals, Mary said, “it’s been a while” – several years, she believes.

“Anyone that is interested in volunteering, we will find a position for them,” Mary stresses. “A lot of the time cook crews need help with prep work, clean up, that kind of thing.” Mary has been a member of the church for over a decade. “I raised my children through the church,” she said, speaking of the many she had between her own and those she adopted as a foster parent. She is happy to be involved in the meal planning.

Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church teams up with First United Methodist Church – “It’s kind of a church within a church, which is a bit unusual,” Mary says – to host meals offered right around holidays. “They did Halloween last year and the 4th of July this year,” Mary says. “It’s a very festive atmosphere” when the Catholic church hosts, and they often have extras set up such as arcade machines for guests to enjoy.

Residents can rest assured the church will host a monthly meal without interruption. “We have not missed a month since we started,” Mary says, adding that if the last Wednesday of the month falls right before a holiday, an alternate day will be selected, but, “We will not call it off.”

If interested in helping with a Community Dinner, please contact Mary or Larry Lenaway at 248.229.5685. Please keep in mind, those who sign up to head a meal are responsible for purchasing all food and beverages and for the general logistics involved, including seating and flow. For all other inquiries regarding upcoming church activities and how you can help, call the church office at 248.545.4467 and speak with Stacy, the church’s secretary.

No reservations are required to attend the meal. “This is a great opportunity for us to break bread with our neighbors,” declares the church’s site. So, just show up and enjoy some tasty food and good conversation! The social hall is located in the basement of Ferndale First United Methodist Church at 22331 Woodward. The next available dates are August 30, September 27, October 25, and dinners are between 6:00 P.M. and 7:30 P.M.

SOCCRA, the municipal corporation responsible for recycling in Ferndale and 11 surrounding communities, has recently dropped off 100 thousand 65-gallon recycling bins to area homes as replacements for the old 20-gallon standbys we put out on garbage day. You should have already received yours. The big green bins are three times the size of the ones they’re replacing, and since SOCCRA is converting to a mixed recycling facility, all curbside recyclables can now be dumped in them unsorted.

The Recycling Partnership, a national non-profit that is picking up a portion of the cost, wants to improve the relatively low U.S. recycling rates. The thinking behind making these behemoths the new standard is that people will recycle more since they have greater capacity.

The new containers total 250,000 pounds of un-recyclable plastic items inserted into our communities and mean that the old ones, also un-recyclable, will wind up in a landfill where most plastic produced finds its way. In fact, according to a study published in the July 2017 Sciences Advances, 91 per cent of plastic produced since 1950 – 8.3 billion metric tons – is not recycled regardless of the chasing arrows symbols and number system that we find on plastic products.

The new recycle carts are designed to encourage residents to fill the containers to the brim.

However, recycling is less than a zero-sum game. It actually worsens the environmental degradation of the planet. More recycling means an expanded industry with more factories, more machinery, more energy, more waste, its own refuse and garbage, more workers going to more work on more roads in more cars, with
additional suppliers, ad infinitum.

Disposal of household garbage, however, should only be a footnote when talking about waste. Americans generate ten billion tons of it yearly, but the vast majority —98 per cent — is from industrial and mining operations. The remaining two percent comes from municipal sources.

The emphasis on household recycling functions as a diversion from examining the big sources of waste. A close look at the myths about recycling shows they are being perpetrated less by those committed to ecology and more by those doing the most damage to the planet.

Though they don’t use the recycled substance in production, the American Plastics Council, an industry group for virgin resin manufacturers (first-time-use plastics), is a relentless promoter of plastics recycling. They spend millions on public relations as part of a propaganda campaign to change the long-standing perception of their product as harmful to the environment.

From its inception, plastic has been a synonym for the false and insubstantial. The late Frank Zappa sang about “Plastic People,” and the obscenely-whispered advice to “The Graduate,” similarly was, “Plastics.” Unfortunately, the businessman in the 1967 film was correct; the future did lie in that multi-use substance made from the oil for which the U.S. has been willing to kill several hundred thousand Iraqis.

The substitution of plastics for glass, wood and paper products has been so substantial that hardly anyone even notices. Any public event, a baseball game, for instance, produces massive amounts of plastic cups, plates and cutlery that have been used in some cases for only the seconds it takes to spill down ten ounces of beer before being consigned to a trash barrel. The cups arrive at the local landfill (they can’t be recycled), there to remain intact for hundreds of years, although their slow disintegration begins to release toxins.

They began their ignominious journey in an oil field thousands of miles away and are toxic every moment of their existence from drilling to oceanic and pipeline transportation, to manufacture and finally to disposal. Add wars to secure oil to the equation and you have the premier deadly modern energy source and product component.

The “at least we’re doing something” argument doesn’t work well either. The industrial recycling process which reclaims plastic is highly toxic and much of what is collected in our neighborhoods is shipped overseas and processed under uncontrolled conditions in notorious polluting countries like China and Thailand. In addition, most of the products which are manufactured from what is recycled, such as park benches, traffic strips, and polyester jackets, can’t be recycled a second time. What you set out at your curb is only one generation away from a landfill.

Originally, recycling was conceived of as the last resort in the triad of reduce, re-use, and recycle, the latter being used only for what couldn’t be controlled by the two other elements of waste control. To its credit, the City of Oak Park in announcing the arrival of the new bins, urges adherence to the first principles. But, “reduce,” which means limiting consumption or, at a minimum, less packaging, strikes at the heart of an economy which demands relentless expansion and always increased production and consumption.

On the personal level, there is no way what my household generates as waste can fill 45 more gallons of trash. And, shouldn’t!

How about you?

Peter Werbe is a member of Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

photo ©2017 Dawn Henry