By Malissa Martin
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

HAZEL PARK IS A SMALL CITY WITH A BIG HEART located in the far southeastern corner of Oakland County. Many residents call it the “Gateway to Oakland County.” The Hazel Park Parks and Recreation Center is designed for its community members to engage in outside activities and fellowship with neighbors.

Within Hazel Park’s 2.866-miles, the city has several parks and other amenities for the community including:

● Green Acres Park (adjacent to Recreation Center)
● A BMX Course at Fuller Park (on Melville between Woodward Heights & Tucker)
● Felker Park (on Felker between Easterling & Battelle)
● Tuski Park (on Tucker between Vassar & Cayuga)
● Madge Park (on E. Madge between Russell & Hughes)
● Karam Park (on Couzens between 10 Mile Rd. & Woodward Heights)
● Maxlow Park (on W. Maxlow between West End & Ford)
● Scout Park (on E. Otis & Russell)
● Sutar-Sutarek Park (on Caledonia between E. Granet & E. Meyers)
● The Dog Park (on Couzens between E. Mapledale & E. Garfield)
● The Community Garden (on Merrill between E. Elza & E. Milton)

Many of the parks have sheds, picnic tables, grills, playgrounds, and bath-rooms. Although residents use all the parks, a few have become favorites through the years. One favorite is the dog park, which opened in late 2014 and has features for canines of all sizes. Small dogs and large dogs have separate, enclosed areas for safe playing. There are also picnic tables, extra parking, and waste stations for easy clean up.

Green Acres Park is another favorite, and is also the largest in the city. It is bordered by Ferndale on the west side, I-75 on the east, and Woodward Heights on the south. It works as a destination park and as an integral part of the neighborhood. It is also home to the city’s Recreation Center and Department offices. Recreation Director Sareen Papakhian leads a team of 15 part-time employees.

The Recreation Center houses several events throughout the year, and one local favorite event is the annual Memorial Weekend Festival. It’s a five-day celebration with a carnival, music, bingo, concessions, and a Memorial Day Parade. Other recurring events are kids camp, Easter egg hunt, lunch with Santa, and a tree-lighting ceremony to bring in the holidays.

They also rent three rooms for private use. The pavilions at Green Acres Park and Scout Park can also be rented for private use from May through October.

Socializing with fellow community members is what makes Hazel Park special. The parks and recreation center provide leisure areas and outdoor activities that families can enjoy. The Hazel Park Parks and Recreation Department wants to enrich the lives of its residents by providing spaces for them to congregate. Papakhian says residents deserve great parks, and she’s happy to assist in providing it for them.

By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

THE HAZEL PARK ARTS COUNCIL EXISTS “TO ENCOURAGE, DEVELOP AND FACILITATE AN ENRICHED CULTURAL ENVIRONMENT IN HAZEL PARK, to serve the art community by ‘making art happen’ through resources and connections, and to advise the city on the acceptance, purchases and integration of art into public and private development.” The Council hosts a number of events designed to promote community involvement in the arts. These events showcase the creations of local artists, and help to fund import-ant local charities. Several notable festivities occur throughout the year.

The Hazel Park Art Fair happens annually during the fourth weekend of August at Green Acres Park, behind the Department of Recreation located at 620 W. Woodward Heights Blvd. “The Festival celebrates the hard work and creativity of artists,” according to Council members. Artists are invited to rent booths to display and generate sales of their work. There is live music, and food and beverage vendors are available. Proceeds are donated to local charities, including the Hazel Park Promise Zone (which helps Hazel Park high school graduates with college tuition assistance and scholarships), Hazel Park Animal Control and the Hazel Park Library.

ArtOber Art Walk takes place annually in October. Art installations are placed throughout the city, including some interactive pieces. Participants can obtain a map from the Arts Council to view each exhibit, while entering various raffles to win prizes and learning about ways to participate with the Arts Council.

The Arts Council also partners with the Hazel Park Growers & Makers Market by hosting an arts and crafts booth. This booth includes free, hands-on activities for children during the summer months. The purpose of the arts and crafts booth “is to provide Hazel Park children with an avenue to express themselves through art, and to entertain and create a positive impression on local kids,” according to the Council.

The Annual Art Challenge encourages Hazel Park residents and students to participate in designing projects. The first annual challenge took place in 2016. The theme was the Sculptural Bike Rack Challenge, which encouraged participants to create functional pieces of art to showcase new growth and business investment in the community’s retail shops and entertainment, and specifically to celebrate improvements being made to local parks and bike lanes. The press release for the event stated the Arts Council sought “members of the arts and design community to submit a design solution for a sculptural bike rack that combines the idea of function with beauty.” The Council plans to reach out to Hazel Park schools and the art departments to recruit more student participation in the challenge moving forward.

The Hazel Park Arts Council participates in and subscribes to arts organizations throughout the state of Michigan. The Council develops strategic relationships with local art professionals, helps to facilitate grants and seeks out additional funding wherever available to promote artists and nonprofit organizations dedicated to the development of civic art in the city.

Current Council Chairs include Jeffrey Keeton, President; Charlie Rysenga, Vice President; Richard Gage, Treasurer; and Linda Yono, Secretary. Additional members include Andrew LeCureaux, Alissa Sullivan, Amy Aubry, Michael Pearce, Halena Fisher, Nina Cairo and Steve Gamburd.

Anyone interested in getting involved & volunteering their time to local art events and related causes should contact the Arts Council at Volunteer applications are also available at Hazel Park City Hall, in the City Manager’s office. The Council’s Facebook page,, and Instagram, @hazelparkarts, provide detailed information on events.

By Maggie Boleyn
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

ONE GREAT BUILDING DOES NOT MAKE A GREAT CITY,” is a quote attributed to the British architect Thomas Heatherwick. However, when the building in question is the seat of most city services, as well as a courthouse and jail, an adequate building is a practical necessity. On the eve of the City’s 75th anniversary, the citizens of Hazel Park received a great building in the form of a remodeled and expanded City Hall.
“I feel that the expansion and remodeling gives the ‘official’ corner of the city a badly needed update,” said Richard Robbins, a member of Hazel Park’s Historical Commission. “The exterior remodel meshes with the architecture, since both are Japanese-based design,” he continued.

Chuck Gladue, another member of Hazel Park’s Historical Commission, adds “I was happy to see it done. The building was in sad shape. This has turned one of the worst buildings into one of the best-looking on John R.” Gladue pointed out that the project was achieved without costing additional taxpayer dollars.
The timeline for a single structure providing a variety of governmental serv-ices in Hazel Park begins nearly 90 years ago. In 1928, Howard Beecher, who later became principal of the High School, made a passionate plea for Hazel Park to become a city. He argued that a seat of local government was needed in Hazel Park, which was a rapidly expanding area. At one point, Hazel Park had the largest population residing in an unincorporated area in the entire country.

“There are many things that could be done under local government that cannot be done under the present form,” Beecher wrote. At that time, Town-ship offices were inconveniently located in Royal Oak, four miles away. Even worse, county offices were “16 miles distant” in the city of Pontiac. “It is a real job to make progress in a community where there are 14,000 people with no local government,” Beecher argued.
Beecher also pointed out that four deputy sheriffs appointed by the County Sheriff of Pontiac, were headquartered in a police booth located at “the main corner of the district” at John R and 9 Mile. The police booth was paid for and moved to the corner by the local Exchange Club.

Robbins notes that the present-day City Hall is also home to the courthouse. “It was built as a multi-purpose facility,” he said of the building which has stood on the corner of 9 Mile and John R since the 1970s. In addition to court offices on the upper floor, the Hazel Park Police Department (HPPD) is headquartered on the lower floor. A door from one of the court rooms allows police to bring prisoners from the jail right into the courtroom. Prior to the original construction of the present site, Robbins said, there really were no previous courthouses, “unless you consider the other two city halls.”

Gladue said that previous city business and City Council meetings were held in the original library building on Pearl Street. Later, City offices were located on 9 Mile east of John R where the present-day Checker’s Restaurant stands. This location, built in the 1940s, was chosen to be close to the police and fire departments. “The first full city hall was located at Stephenson and Rhodes,” Gladue said.
The turbulent decade of the 1960s brought dramatic change to our nation and also to the city of Hazel Park. As Lucille Lacey documented, the I-75 freeway expansion uprooted a portion of the John R business district as well as the “modern era” City Hall. During the construction on the present-day site, city offices were moved to the present-day Recreation Center on Woodward Heights.

At present, in addition to space for the usual City services such as the Water Department, Code Enforcement, the Hazel Park Police Department (HPPD) and other City offices, the remodeled building has expanded the space used for the 43rd District Court in Hazel Park. Hazel Park’s City Council also holds meetings in the building.

During the remodeling project, Longfellow School was revamped and put into service as a Courthouse. HPPD transported prisoners from the jail to Longfellow and back again.
Beth Holland, a member of the Historical Commission and a city council-person, notes that the completed remodel has reaped benefits for residents. She said that the first Council meeting in the new space provided improved acoustics and a better quality of sound for broadcasting meetings via cable TV. Holland points out that the remodel has made the building fully compliant with Americans with Disabilities regulations. “We’re in 2017 now,” she said of the new space.

THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS MAINTAINS MANY FUNCTIONS OF THE CITY. Many of these duties change with the seasons. In the warm weather, the department cuts many acres of lawn at our 13 parks and municipal buildings, the street sweeper sweeps the entire city every two weeks, tree crews maintain over 4,100 city trees, and road crews do their best to keep our streets free of pot holes. In the cold weather months, crews keep our roads safe by salting and plowing the streets when needed.

Throughout the year, DPW crews use our garbage truck to empty all city garbage cans along John R and 9 Mile Roads and all City parks. Our mechanic staff maintains all city vehicles and equipment at the DPW garage. The DPW also prepares and sets up special events such as the Memorial Day Festival and Parade, the Art Fair and the Santa Hat 5K run. The Department of Public Works is on call 24/7 for any issues that may happen after hours, including the flood of 2014, the 9 Mile Bridge fire of 2009 and any other issues big or small.

The City of Hazel Park’s Water-Sewer Department was established in 1951. The Water-Sewer Department is responsible for monitoring and servicing the city’s water distribution system, sanitary sewer system and storm sewer system.

Year-round preventative maintenance with many other tasks is the key to keeping the city’s water-sewer system operational and in compliance with all state and federal regulations. Constant care to the system is essential, not only for the consumer’s daily needs, but also the need to be ready for unforeseen emergencies. Fire fighters rely on good water pressure and availability to combat fires quickly.

So, just how big is the water-sewer system for the City of Hazel Park? Most people do not understand the magnitude of a water-sewer system because it is mostly underground and out of sight.

The city’s water system consists of just less than 60 miles of water main, with an approximate 643 operating water main gate valves which serves just over 7500 water consumers. The City purchases clean, safe drinking water from the City of Detroit’s Water & Sewer Department (DWSD); this is the same for just about all cities in the Tri-County area. The City also has three large pressure control valves at each DWSD connection to keep the water system stabilized.

There are approximately 483 fire hydrants, each with an auxiliary valve, throughout the city. About 1,869 storm sewer catch basin drains within the city are each connected to underground pipes to take away surface water. About two-thirds of these city storm drains go directly to the Michigan Great Lakes system, thus the city over- sees a “Watershed Protection” program to protect the natural waters of the state. The
other one third of the city’s storm drains discharge into a combined storm/sanitary sewer system. The sanitary sewer system (including the combined system) is just about equal to the same mileage as the water system. It carries sanitary sewage to a DWSD waste water treatment plant.

The City has an aggressive cleaning program to keep both the sanitary and storm sewer systems working properly.

This great task of maintaining the city’s water-sewer system is performed by a dedicated staff consisting of a full-time supervisor, six full-time employees, two part-time employees, two full time office staff, and two mechanics. Though our team works a 40-hour work week, they are on call 24/7 for city emergencies that occur at any time day or night. This division is overseen by the Director of Public Works.

In addition to their water-sewer responsibilities, the staff and crew also assists other city departments in times of emergencies and other miscellaneous issues that occur from time to time. Municipalities are always facing new challenges, in good times or bad, their dedication never wavers.

By Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie Laframboise

THE ERICKSON BUILDING, LOCATED AT 45 EAST PEARL STREET IN HAZEL PARK, WAS ORIGINALLY HOME TO THE CITY’S FIRST LIBRARY. Built in 1940 and given its name by John Erickson (former superintendent of the city’s schools), with the help of a dedicated team of local volunteers, construction was funded by card parties and various community fundraisers. “There is an architectural drawing done around 1937 that we still have in our possession,” explains Hazel Park’s Historical Commission Chair, Richard E. Robbins, of the original site plans. “This shows an art deco look to the building. It was not built to concept, but has been built with styling cues for the 1940s.”

In 1942, the Erickson Building was the site of Hazel Park’s first city council meeting. However, as the community’s population grew following the boom of the Ford Motor Company and library demand increased, it became evident that expansion of the Pearl Street site was too limited to continue using the building for its original purpose. A new library was constructed at 123 E 9 Mile Road and, realizing the importance of maintaining the Erickson fixture, the Historical Commission approached the school board to ask if it could be used instead for displaying artifacts and hosting historical tours. “The Erickson Building is the oldest civic building left in the city,” Robbins says. It had become a staple in the community and simply needed to be re-purposed.

In response, a cooperative agreement was drafted by Dr. Amy Kruppe, current superintendent of Hazel Park’s schools, with the help of Edward Klobucher, City Manager, to lease and maintain the building. “Amy and Edward as well as the maintenance staff…have worked tirelessly to make the building ready for use again after about ten years,” Robbins says.

The Hazel Park Historical Commission now hosts its regular meetings at the Erickson Building, having relocated from its original space. 200 people were in attendance at the Commission’s first meeting held at the new location, including John Erickson himself. The Erickson Building became home to Hazel Park’s Historical Museum on February 2, 2017, Hazel Park’s 75th Anniversary. “It is currently being refurbished inside for the new Historical Museum, and is serving as a meeting space for the surrounding community as needed,” says Robbins.

The revamped site is meant to be utilized by Hazel Park natives and visitors alike. And, although events are currently limited, the Commission hopes to expand the use of its space as the museum evolves. “The building is intended for the use of residents and nonresidents interested in viewing the museum and those interested in using [it] as a meeting space,” Robbins says. The Historical Commission is still throwing around ideas for other regular and special occasion events that could be planned at the Erickson Building. Children’s and family-friendly events are among options being

in attendance at the Commission’s first meeting held at the new location, including John Erickson himself. The Erickson Building became home to Hazel Park’s Historical Museum on February 2, 2017, Hazel Park’s 75th Anniversary. “It is currently being refurbished inside for the new Historical Museum, and is serving as a meeting space for the surrounding community as needed,” says Robbins.

The revamped site is meant to be utilized by Hazel Park natives and visitors alike. And, although events are currently limited, the Commission hopes to expand the use of its space as the museum evolves. “The building is intended for the use of residents and nonresidents interested in viewing the museum and those interested in using [it] as a meeting space,” Robbins says. The Historical Commission is still throwing around ideas for other regular and special occasion events that could be planned at the Erickson Building. Children’s and family-friendly events are among options being considered.

For specific needs, members can be reached at the Commission’s Facebook page at, blog at
or via email at

By Mary Meldrum
Photos by Bernie Laframboise and from the HPAC

IN ONE OF THE BUILDINGS OWNED BY THE CITY OF HAZEL PARK AT 24211 COUZENS AVE., HAZEL PARK ANIMAL CONTROL has a small office – it really consists of just a desk amidst the cages in the cinder block room. From this modest headquarters, Hazel Park’s Animal Control Officer, Justin Holland, and his small dedicated band of volunteers manage a myriad of animal-related issues for the city of Hazel Park.

The Hazel Park Animal Shelter cares for local strays, feral cats and dogs, animals abandoned by their owners, animals seized from owners due to improper care, surrendered animals, and house bite cases. They are just starting to do direct adoptions, and they also sometimes work with local rescues to find the right homes for the animals at the shelter. Adoption applications are available for those interested in animals at the shelter. They currently have a 90 per cent return and placement rate through their Facebook postings. Lost pets and animals looking for a new home tend to find one quickly.

The Hazel Park Animal Control Shelter Facebook page was designed to get the word out about the shelter, as well as provide residents a way to spread the news about lost/found pets in and around the city. The page has a healthy turnover of pictures and information on the dogs and cats that are being kept and then reunited with their owners through the shelter. Additionally, adoptable pets from the Hazel Park Animal Shelter are posted on

There are 21 cages for cats and eight kennels for dogs (with two outdoor dog runs that can be used in weather above 40 degrees). Volunteers are at the shelter two or three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to make sure the animals are fed and cared for as well as to help the public with other animal-related problems.

While larger cities have more resources and more open land, the city of Hazel Park is just under two square miles, making the capture and release of wild animal pests impossible for the small crew at animal control. The City Code Department handles any rat infestation issues, while the raccoons and opossum complaints are farmed out to the proper third-party organizations.

While there are some open and available cages now, there are times where the shelter has an increase in resident cats and/or dogs. Late fall tends to be a big time for cats being reported and brought to the shelter. Well-meaning citizens are under the impression that the cat might not survive the approaching cold weather and call the Shelter to come pick up the cat. Stray animals, bite cases, domestic and wild road kills and lost animals at large are the responsibility of the Animal Control department. The biggest part of Justin’s day is split between care for the animals in the shelter and keeping his paperwork up to date. Other than a designated part-time Shelter Manager who is paid for two hours a day, Justin is the only employee of Animal Control. He has been the Animal Control Officer for a year-and-a-half, after spending four years in the Code Department for the city.

The shelter is experiencing good times. The Facebook page is more active than ever and the shelter has put a few policies in place that help dogs and cats get recovered and get them home faster. At least once a year the Hazel Park Animal Control Shelter hosts a low-cost vaccination clinic. It is a great opportunity for pet owners; for $30 you can get complete immunization for your dog or cat. They have also just instituted policies recently where police officers can bring dogs and cats into the shelter after hours and call one of the shelter volunteers to meet them most hours of the night. This has greatly reduced the “returned home” turnaround time for many dogs and cats who end up at the shelter from days to mere hours. Lost animals are posted on the “For the Love of Louie” Facebook page, as well as other local forums that help to reunite pets with their owners.

Justin was very clear about thanking the City Council of Hazel Park for keeping the Animal Control Department in its budget planning. With so many responsibilities, Hazel Park chooses to be a small city with a big heart for animals and the people who regard them as family members.

ESTABLISHED IN 2016, THE HAZEL PARK GROWERS & MAKERS MARKET is dedicated to providing a welcoming and comfortable outdoor environment for our community to gather and have weekly access to healthy, fresh, and high-quality produce and cottage food products. Our market is focused on presenting our local agricultural entrepreneurs and vendors a stable avenue and space for their business’s growth. We intend to celebrate our community’s cultural and economic diversity through the offerings of nutritious seasonal food, social and educational activities and events, and partnering with other charitable organizations to improve the overall quality of life for our residents. We will always strive to make the Hazel Park Growers & Makers Market an appealing destination for our local families and neighboring communities to visit and enjoy our charming hospitality.

FOUNDERS: Jennifer Jackson and Leigh McLaughlin. Began discussing the market in August of 2015. They met with Ed Klobucher and Jeffrey Campbell from the City of HP, who were extremely supportive. The market is structured as a volunteer organization under the City’s umbrella. It is operated by volunteers only. There are no paid staff.
ASSOCIATIONS: The market is a member of the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA). Both Jennifer and Leigh became certified market managers through MIFMA, after attending courses at the Michigan State Extension in Jackson, MI, as well as participating in many online courses.
MARKET DAYS: Sunday, from 10:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M., from June 19 through September 4, 2016

WHERE: The market is held along the walking path, near the pavilions at Green Acres Park, in Hazel Park. The park is located behind the Hazel Park Department of Recreation.

VENDORS: The market had 3 farmers, 3 cottage food vendors with baked goods, and 1 natural cosmetics vendor during the 2016 season.

COMMUNITY GARDEN. Hazel Park currently has two community gardens. The first was established by the Neighborhood Enrichment Commit-tee in 2005 at Kennedy Park. It has 19 plots available for rent every year. The rental fee is $25 per plot, per season. For more information please call 248.547.5535. The Merrill Street Garden Club features 17 4’x8’ raised garden beds. Rental fee is $25 per box, per season. Information on renting the plots is available through the Parks and Recreation Department. 248.547.5535.
HAZEL PARK ANIMAL CONTROL (HPAC) shelter cares for strays, animals abandoned by their owners, animals seized from owners due to improper care, surrendered animals and house bite cases. “The City has been gracious enough to approve direct adoption,” Justin Holland explains, which reduces the time in which animals find new homes. Visit or email
HAZEL PARK ARTS COUNCIL “makes art happen” through its resources and connections, advises the city on acceptance, purchases and integration of art into public and private development, and participates in and subscribes to arts organizations within the state to continually develop strategic relationships with art professionals. Contact: or visit
HAZEL PARK ATHLETIC BOOSTER CLUB is an organization whose sole purpose is to enhance the athletic experience of all Hazel Park athletes by furnishing athletic needs above and beyond the basics, which are supplied by the School District.
Contact 248.658-5150 or hphs., or visit
HAZEL PARK COMMUNI-D BBQ takes place the second Saturday of every month, year-round. CommuniD BBQs start at 1:00pm and go until the party’s over. Call 313.444.0463 or email
HAZEL PARK CREATIVE ARTS is a recognized nonprofit, charitable organization. Its mission is to promote, enhance and maintain an enthusiastic interest in the arts in the Hazel Park Michigan community through fundraising and assistance as necessary. Visit the organization’s Facebook page at arts, its website at or email

HAZEL PARK EAGLES #2449 is a non-profit organization that helps several different charities in our community, such as cancers and the Max Baer Heart Fund. We are a private club that loves helping our community. For information on volunteering or membership, please contact Tom Clark at 248-548-7547.
HAZEL PARK LAND CURE is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the housing and transforming vacant spaces in Hazel Park, as well as improving the City’s overall economic development. The organization is located at 111 E. Nine Mile Rd. for more information, contact Executive Director Jeff Campbell at 248.546.4060 or

HAZEL PARK LIBRARY FRIENDS is a volunteer group dedicated to enhancing library services at the Hazel Park District Library. Their fund-raising efforts help support library programming, collections, and technology upgrades. Meetings are the 4th Thursday monthly at the Library. Email or call 248.546.4095.
THE PURPOSE OF THE LIONS CLUB International Foundation is to empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding. The Hazel Park Club is located at 23109 Harding. For more information, call 248.548.7547.

HAZEL PARK’S NEIGHBORHOOD ENRICHMENT founded the community garden at Kennedy Park, gives out curb appeal awards and decorates city hall for the holidays. The program built raised garden beds at Jardon school and planted the flowers at City Hall. For more information, visit the Facebook page at (search Hazel-Park-Neighborhood-Enrichment) or call 248.525-7193.

HAZEL PARK PROMISE ZONE guarantees all resident graduates of Hazel Park Schools a tuition-free path to an associate’s degree, often through pre-existing scholarships. This opportunity can be used at any accredited trade school, community college, college or university in the state of Michigan. A Promise Zone scholarship is paid directly to a student’s institution to cover tuition and fees only. Contact Executive Director Kayla Roney-Smith at 248. 658.5107 or
HAZEL PARK WILD WINGS, a fully stocked bird infirmary and nursery, is dedicated to caring for the area’s injured birds and abandoned baby birds. Wild Wings accepts songbirds, as well as crows, pigeons, and mourning doves. Those inquiring about any others can contact the Michigan DNR office. For more information, please contact founder and owner Marg Sapp at 248.701.2523 or, or visit the organization’s website at
THE KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS is the world’s largest organization of Catholic men and their families. Today the Knights have grown to nearly 11,000 councils. The Hazel Park Chapter is located at 50 E. Annabelle. To get involved, email or call 248.542.8060.

THE SOUTH EAST OAKLAND DEMOCRATIC CLUB covers the cities of Hazel Park and Madison Heights, Michigan, to promote and elect Democrats to public office. Our club meets the second Thursday of the month. To get on our mailing list, email us at or see our event schedule:

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By Sara E. Teller & Stephanie Loveless

INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING – WHAT IS IT? THIS IS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION, considering that Ferndale voters may be using the system to elect our mayor and council as early as this November.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), or Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) as it is also known, is an alternative voting method aimed at solving common problems with traditional voting methods by allowing voters to rank their choice for candidates, first to last choice. If no candidate receives a majority of first-round votes, the last place candidate is eliminated and the second choices from those ballots are added to the totals for the remaining candidates. The process continues until a majority candidate is ultimately identified.
IRV has been used in Ireland and Australia for quite some time in their national elections, and it has been adopted in parts of Europe. In the United States, about ten cities including San Francisco and Oakland California and Minneapolis, Minnesota use the system, and now the State of Maine is expected to be the first to use it statewide after voters approved it at the polls last November.

Here at home, in 2004 the voters of Ferndale overwhelmingly passed Proposal B with 69.75% of the vote, “to provide for election of the mayor and city council through the use of an Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) system pending the availability and purchase of compatible software and approval of the equipment by the Ferndale Election Commission.” (Full disclosure: Ferndale Friends publisher Stephanie Loveless was part of the organizing team to put IRV on the Ferndale ballot that year.)

Since that time – nothing. The only voting machines the State of Michigan has been willing to certify have been incapable of the simple calculations necessary for this kind of voting, and equipment manufacturers like Diebold have demanded outrageous fees to upgrade for IRV-capability.

Finally – 13 years later – there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel. New voting machines coming to Ferndale this November will reportedly be IRV-capable.

HOWEVER, NOW THAT THE TECHNICAL ISSUES seem to be resolved, there may be new wrinkles at the state and county level. The State Bureau of Elections has now questioned whether or not IRV is allowed under current Michigan election law, despite the fact that the City of Ann Arbor used IRV for at least one election in the ‘70s. There are also new questions about State certification.

Because of these concerns, Ferndale City Clerk Marne McGrath issued a statement on May 1 saying, “In light of this [and other factors], implementation before the 2017 filing deadline may be difficult. It may be more likely it would take place in 2019 if the above items are addressed legislatively and by the BOE.”

To many, the IRV process is much more fair and efficient than traditional voting, but it has yet to gain mainstream traction in much of the United States. “Runoffs are good and sensible. Instant runoffs are just a much more efficient way of doing the same thing,” says Howard Ditkoff of, also an organizer of the 2004 Ferndale referendum. “In the current system, voters are going into the vote, playing a game essentially. And there’s been a historically low turnout,” he explains, because those supporting third-party candidates simply don’t see the point in wasting their time casting a vote. With IRV, all have an equal chance to benefit, including those supporting independent parties who actually have a chance to be heard.

“Any time there are three or more candidates on the ballot, there is always a danger of the candidate opposed by most of the voters winning,” Ethan Fitzgerald of the FairVote organization says.

“One, you’re not dealing with the spoiler effect of traditional voting, and there is no pressure for candidates to drop out. Another great thing we’re witnessing is an increase in campaign civility. There is a need to retain support from the other parties, so there’s more cross-support.” In other words, candidates are motivated to endorse each other because they need the support of their opponents and they tend to focus their campaign dollars on what really matters – the issues – rather than spending time attacking each other. “In runoff elections, there is a savings in campaign spending for candidates, too,” Ethan says.

Ethan explains IRV using a metaphor many can appreciate – ice cream: “We like to tell voters, Ranked Choice Voting is as easy as 1, 2, 3. It’s having to make a decision between options. Anyone who has asked for chocolate ice cream at a parlor and was told they were out so they had to settle for strawberry instead would understand,” he says. “Voters get to rank according to preference. If their candidate is eliminated, they still get their next choice.”

Howard reflects that “people are pretty familiar with runoff elections and understand why they’re needed.” He uses the recent election in France as an example; “In France’s recent presidential election, nobody got a majority in the first round. They didn’t just take the person with the most votes and make them president. No, they took the top two – Macron and Le Pen – and held a second runoff election between them. Why?Because they recognize that if you don’t do that, you may end up with a leader without majority support, which is not a good outcome.”

“Ferndale could really set a great example for other cities, and I hope it gets a chance to do that,” said Ditkoff.

“The new election equipment is capable of implementing the software but we must wait until the State of Michigan certifies the equipment for IRV,” explains Marne McGrath of the City of Ferndale. “Most likely we will not be using IRV in the November 2017 election,” although there is hope it’ll be up and running by then.
When asked if IRV will realistically be available to residents in the near future, Ethan responded, “We hope so. The equipment purchased is certainly capable of allowing for ranked choice. We’re just waiting on state certification.”

In early May, McGrath requested a legal opinion from City of Ferndale attorney Dan Christ about the way forward. On May 29th, she reported that she has a follow-up email into Christ and hopes to receive a response in a week or two. At that point, she plans to re-engage with the county and state, depending on the advice given by Christ.

In the meantime, voters can educate themselves by referencing “There are a lot of printable materials here,” Ethan explains, or by visiting


TEMPERS ARE FLARING ONCE AGAIN, with all manner of charges and accusations flying, as Ferndale residents debate the pros and cons of the proposed new parking/mixed-used structure for the corner of Allen and Troy. Below, we present two-and-a-half perspectives with the hopes of sorting out a little bit of the fact and fiction:

By Clint Hubbell

MY NAME IS CLINT HUBBELL, AND I AM A HOMEOWNER IN FERNDALE. People love to be in Ferndale. They love the energy, they love the diversity, and they which is why it’s fun to be here.

There is an issue with everyone wanting to be here, though: Parking. As optimistic as I am about public transit, including the SMART system, the potential for light rail making its way up Wood-ward Avenue into Ferndale and beyond, and our fantastic new bike-friendly attitude, the fact remains that for shoppers, entertainment-seekers, eaters and drinkers and learners, the primary mode of transportation is the car. I love our walk-able city — I live within walking distance of our downtown, and we take advantage of it. We love to bike and, having lived in Seattle and Chicago, I know the true value and power of robust public transit.

But what if you don’t live within walking or biking distance, and you want to be here? The bus?Sure, you can take the bus. But by-and-large, the option is the car. Cars give a flexibility that people value — they come and go at the driver’s whim, which means they fit the driver’s need whether that need is a ten-minute shopping trip or a two-hour dinner. Until that reality is cured by a serious investment in public transportation, the car will remain the primary mode of transportation in and out of Ferndale for out-of-towners who want to be here. And it shows. Although admittedly anecdotal, anyone who wants to come down-town in a car on Saturday knows that is always a losing proposition, and many people who want to spend their money here end up going elsewhere. The city’s natural reaction is to balance additional parking for cars and catering to the car culture on one hand with making our city livable, workable, and playable on the other.

The result: A “mixed-use” parking/commercial/residential development. But problems come when we try to be everything to everyone. Here are what I see as the cons to the pro-posed mixed-use development currently being advanced by the City of Ferndale for the Lot 6 location at W. Troy St. and Allen Road, where there is an existing street-level parking lot operated by the City:

• The Mixed-Use Development is Expensive. The City anticipates issuing bonds in the amount of 15 million dollars to cover the costs involved with the project. The current mixed-use plan involves a cast-in-place structure with footings sunk far down as 130 feet (because Ferndale is built on a swampy area). Fifteen million dollars is, objectively, a lot of money, and it is guaranteed by Ferndale’s taxpayers, in spite of the City’s best intentions of repaying the bonds with fees gathered from the parking system. This is putting a lot of Ferndale’s financial eggs in one parking basket.

• People Don’t Want to Walk or Bike for five Months of the Year in Michigan. Let’s face it: from November to March, people want to drive into a snow-plowed lot, do their business, get back in their car and go home — usually with as little time spent outside as possible. They don’t care about walk-ability, bike-ability, or atmosphere when there is a foot of snow on the ground. Mostly, people are doing what they can to keep it together until the sun emerges once again. The atmosphere generated by a fancy parking development won’t matter.

• The Mixed Use Development Creates a Long-Term Parking Solution at the Expense of the Short-Term/drop-off and pick-up user. There are only going to be a very small number of spaces on the first floor of the mixed-use structure, adding parking time, and walking time in and out of the lot. Also, as it is, there is only one proposed entrance/exit from the mixed-use structure. While the City assures us that this will not cause an increase in traffic on W. Troy, there is a natural bottleneck that occurs when there is only one way in and out of the structure.

• The Public/Private Partnership May Create Unnecessary Entanglements. Aside from the City getting its information from the firms who stand to benefit financially from a relationship with the City, one idea for the mixed-use development is to derive rents from first floor commercial spaces and possibly property tax revenue from residential units, and from possible high-end commercial or residential space above the top level of the parking structure. Who’s the management company?

Who’s going to lease the commercial spaces when there are no chain-stores or liquor licenses permitted? This revenue stream is less than clear.

• There is No Meaningful Parking Mitigation Plan. The City projects that “Phase 1” of the mixed-use development will take between 12 and 15 months to complete. This means that for as many as 15 months the shoppers and business owners will not have the benefit of the 130+ spots in Lot 6. The simple fact is that the City does not know what to tell the folks who want to come and spend their money, drop off and pick up their children, eat breakfast, grab lunch, have a beer, munch on a cupcake, or pick up some take-out. There are plans, but the plans put peoples cars far away from businesses and are not well-conceived.

• Does not keep the character of Ferndale. In spite of the best intentions of the City to keep this project in tune with Ferndale’s vibe, the proposal for a transfer floor on the fourth floor of this structure leaves the option open to use the space above the fourth floor, potentially to five or six stories, directly adjacent to a residential neighbor-hood and single or two-story commercial spaces between Troy and 9 Mile Rd. There is nothing, except for the Ferndale Center Building or Credit Union One that rivals that height. Also, the generic mod architecture does nothing to maintain our funky rep; it makes us look like everyone else.

There are many more problems with the mixed-use proposal. There is an alternative, however, which is a precast structure that addresses many of the concerns above.

• Less Expensive. The precast, single-use, parking structure is less expensive because the construction is largely prefabricated. It is unclear how much less, but the City of Rochester, for example, added about 550 spots for approximately $12 million dollars in 2015-16.
( By contrast, the proposed mixed-use plan nets only about 200 additional spots at an estimated cost of $15 million.

• Accessibility in the Winter. The precast, single-use, parking structure gives people an easy-in-easy-out option for patronizing local businesses, eliminating walking around a first floor of commercial space or taking an elevator to get to the 9 Mile businesses.

In addition to being less expensive and easier to use, a single-use structure means that the City doesn’t need to be a landlord, won’t need a management company taking a cut of the revenue received from renters, can continue (but not expand) relationships with its existing parking vendor, and doesn’t need to worry about contracts for air rights and residential units.

Because of the issues with a mixed-use development and the simplicity offered by a single-use pre-cast parking structure, I favor the latter, leaving the “space-making” developments for other projects better suited for space-making.

Name Withheld

FERNDALE HAS THE CHANCE TO TAKE A BOLD STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION — by building a sorely needed parking deck that would help alleviate our city’s parking crunch in a way that enhances the vibrancy of downtown. The proposed four-story garage would create nearly 400 parking spaces out of a parking lot that now holds 139. It would feature ground-floor retail and office space, a design that would expand the city’s tax base, make the deck more financially viable and add to the street life that Ferndale has worked so hard to nurture over the years.

It also would come with green-space buffers and walls to minimize the impact on homeowners immediately adjacent to the structure. And it would be paid for not with taxes, but with revenue from the city’s parking system.

What’s not to like about it? You would have thought the idea would have brought the end of downtown Ferndale, the way opponents lashed out at it, creating a petition and hiring a professional company to gather signatures to put the issue to a city-wide vote. To this day, the business owner who financed the canvassing hasn’t identified himself or herself publicly, but the professional signature gatherers told residents that signing the petition was “to support the parking deck” or to force a choice between the four-story deck or a smaller, three-story deck with no first-floor commercial space. I heard from at least a dozen people who, they were embarrassed to admit, had signed the petition not realizing what it would do.

The canvassers didn’t tell the truth: that the city-wide vote only would have been on whether to allow the city to seek bonds to pay for a parking deck; there was no choice between one or another, and rejecting the bond issue would have meant starting over at square one. I can’t count how many times the city has had to do that in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in Ferndale. Other residents and I co-founded the Support the Ferndale Parking Deck page on Facebook to fight back and interject some truth into the debate to counter the misinformation opponents were spreading.

They claimed:

• Taxpayers would be on the hook for $20 million in bonds for the deck. Well, sure, in the same way a bank is on the hook for a home mortgage. The $20 million figure, it should be noted, is the maximum the city could seek in bonds to build the deck, which likely would cost several million dollars less than that. The bonds would be repaid not by taxes, on property or otherwise, but by revenue from parking fees and violations. Ferndale now brings in about $1 million a year from its parking system, a figure expected to grow once the deck is built. And it’s quite reasonable to assume that parking revenue will remain steady, short of some catastrophic event that stops people from visiting downtown and paying to park.

• The four-story deck would take up to two years to build, while a parking-only, three-story deck would only take six months. Both claims were untrue. Expert construction projections are that the four-story deck would take 12-15 months to complete, with parking available in as little as 11 months, while a three-story deck would take 9-12 months. The reason is that no matter which deck is built, construction requires excavating to reach bed-rock that supports the weight of the deck — about 130 feet deep in Ferndale — adding months to construction.

• The City would become a “landlord” for the commercial space in the deck. Again, untrue. “The City has no intention of becoming a landlord,” Assistant City Manager Joe Gacioch, who is spearheading the project, told me. He said the city might sell the commercial space to a private comp-any or pursue options including a long-term lease with a property management company or a public-private partnership. In that case, primary day-to-day management of the commercial space would be up to the private sector, although the city would retain say in what sorts of businesses could locate there to make sure they fit in with the city’s vision for downtown.

There were more claims, and I could go on, but at this point we are all better off coming together to determine as a community how to best build this parking deck and to minimize the impact construction will have on downtown businesses.

There will be disruption, no doubt. I hope residents hold city officials to their pledges to do as much as they can to minimize the harm to down-town businesses by providing shuttles for workers, free valet service for customers and a well-publicized campaign to remind visitors that downtown Ferndale will be open for business throughout.

What we’ll get in return is a parking deck that will make it easier for the residents and visitors who love our downtown to be able to find a parking space when they get there— instead of driving in circles endlessly looking for a spot, or avoiding going there altogether.

By stephanie loveless

APPARENTLY, MANY OF YOU ARE HAVING A PARKING PROBLEM. I am sorry to hear it. I have lived in Ferndale for 33 years, and never once had a parking problem – there has always been a handy tree or signpost to lock my bike.

Out of every 100 days, there are generally one or two when the weather is bad enough to feel sorry for myself, on the bike. But most of the time, I feel sorry for what you are missing! It’s a whole different world, living at 12-miles-per-hour, and you might really love it.

People have been trying to build this damn parking structure here in Ferndale for as long as I can remember, and it looks like they are going to get it this time. But I want you to know that lots of us have given a big cheer every time these plans have gone unfulfilled. I want to speak up for those of us who hate the thought of ANY kind of immense cement structure dominating our beloved home town! We like Ferndale just the way it is, and the less you change the better. How many others feel the same? We’ll never know, and it would have been better to put the matter to a vote. If this thing goes badly, the people who resisted a vote will take a lot of heat for it.

There are plenty of cement mountains to the south of us, and to the north, east and west. We came to Ferndale because we love our small-town lifestyle in the greater metropolitan setting. We’ve really enjoyed the last 20 years while this whole parking structure debacle has remained nothing more than a debate over blueprints.

I guess it’s coming this time, though! That’s okay. This is your town too. Just please understand that we’re not in love with the idea of having our paradise paved over just so you can have another place to park your car.