News

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

IN RECOGNITION OF THE UNPRECEDENTED TIMES and the immense loss so many have experienced, the City of Oak Park will create a space that allows for reflection on the pandemic and remembrance of those who lost their lives to COVID-19.

We recognize each individual has their own story on how COVID-19 impacted them and that each story has affected our community. Some of the greatest impacts have been felt by those who lost a loved one to COVID-19. To ensure victims of the virus are properly remembered, the City will be installing a thoughtful and permanent memorial. We invite Oak Park residents to share their input on what an appropriate COVID-19 Memorial may be, where it should be installed and, most importantly, to provide information on Oak Park residents who fell victim to the virus. The City will, on an ongoing basis take the information of those lost to COVID-19 to ensure their memory is preserved.

Information can be provided by utilizing the QR code on this page (photo); and pictures of Oak Park residents who died from COVID-19 can be sent to Communications Director Courtney Flynn at cflynn@oakparkmi.gov. We thank you for your valued input and are humbled at the opportunity to provide a space for our community to honor and remember their loved ones.

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

THE CITY OF OAK PARK HAS FIVE MOGO STATIONS and the numbers show that our community knows how to ride!

In 2020, Oak Park had the highest usage of any community in the surrounding area, with 1,667 trips taken. We hope our residents continue to utilize this service offered through the City’s partnership with MoGo.

For those looking to get on a MoGo bike and ride, the Oak Park stations are located at:

• West 11 Mile Rd. & Tyler St.

• Lincoln St. & Greenfield Rd.

• Coolidge Hwy. & Lincoln St.

• Oak Park Blvd. & Parklawn St.

• West Nine Mile Rd. & Manistee St.

To stay up-to-date on MoGo News, visit their website at mogodetroit.org or follow them on social media (@MoGoDetroit).

Photos ©2021 by Bennie White

THE Oak Park Water Tower Social District, on 11 Mile Rd., opened to the public in August and continues to offer opportunities for patrons to enjoy local businesses, both inside and out. The Social District welcomes those ages 21 and above to purchase from participating businesses to-go alcoholic beverages and enjoy them in the Commons Area.

HOURS OF OPERATION:

• Monday through Saturday: Noon-10:00 P.M.

• Sunday: Noon-6:00 P.M.

• Closed on holidays recognized by the City of Oak Park

PARTICIPATING BUSINESSES / EXPANDING SOON!

• Oak Park Social

• Dog & Pony Show Brewing

• Unexpected Craft Brewing Company

• Berkley Coffee

Social districts were created through a state initiative in 2020 with the hopes of spurring social and economic involvement in local communities. As the Water Tower Social District in Oak Park continues to experience its rebirth, this initiative will surely only help the businesses in that corridor grow while also helping to foster a deeper sense of community.

Photos ©2021 by Bennie White

WELCOME!

OVER THE LAST YEAR THE CITY OF OAK PARK HAS WELCOMED several new faces to the leadership team, including Human Resources & Labor Relations Director Megan Burke, Library Director Kimberly Schaaf & Communications and Public Information Director Courtney Flynn. These staffing updates will continue to ensure Oak Park remains in line with its commitment to excellence, innovation and high-quality service.

“I am proud of the team we have in Oak Park, as we all work to meet the needs of Oak Park residents and continuously look for ways to improve how we deliver our services,” said City Manager Erik Tungate. “The additions of Directors Burke, Schaaf and Flynn to our team have solidified our culture of excellence in this City and make me confident we are blazing a bright trail for the future.”

MEGAN “MEG” BURKE

MEGAN “MEG” BURKE IS AN EXPERIENCED HUMAN RESOURCES (HR) PROFESSIONAL, who came to the City of Oak Park with knowledge from both the private and public sectors.

She attended Wayne State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, and in 2020 she completed a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, with a concentration in Human Resources. She began working in the City of Oak Park in August 2020.

Burke’s philosophy on HR is that empathy, humility and relationships are the foundation of Human Resources, and that focusing on these principles creates a productive, safe, and comfortable working-environment. Some of her favorite aspects of the job include labor relations, compliance review, contract/proposal writing, and benefit administration. She holds various certifications, including:

• Certified Labor Relations Leader (CLRL): Michigan State University.

• Certified Professional in Public Sector Human Resources (IPMA-CP): International Public Management Association of Human Resources.

• Yellow Belt in Lean Six Sigma: Six Sigma Global Institute.

• Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Adult & Youth: National Behavioral Council.

Burke serves on the Board of Directors for both Macomb County Community Mental Health (MCCMH) and the Michigan Public Employer Labor Relations Association (MPELRA) and is an active member of Woodside Bible Church in Troy.

She lives with her husband, Tim, an IBEW Local 58 electrician, in Chesterfield Township. She enjoys golfing, traveling, cooking, and spending quality time with family and friends.

KIMBERLY SCHAAF

KIMBERLY SCHAAF JOINED THE OAK PARK TEAM IN THE SPRING OF 2021, with a wealth of knowledge related to libraries and program. Prior to taking on the Director of Library role at the Oak Park Library, Schaaf served as the Head of Adult Services at Springfield Township Library.

Overall, she has 14 years of library experience. Schaaf is also professionally involved in the Library Network Committees Group and serves current chair of the Shared System Users Group.

In addition to her library experience, Schaaf also has several years of corporate business management experience and holds degrees and certifications in the following:

• Bachelor of Arts in English with a specialization in secondary education, University of Michigan.

• Master of Library Science: Wayne State University.

• Professional Level One Librarian Certificate: The Library of Michigan.

• Certificate in Library Community Assessment.

Schaaf is married with two teenage boys. In her free time she enjoys gardening, hiking, doing mixed media art projects and spending time with family.

COURTNEY FLYNN

COURTNEY FLYNN JOINS THE CITY OF OAK PARK’S MANAGEMENT TEAM as the Director of Communications. She formerly served as Public Relations Manager for the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

She is well-versed in government communications with an emphasis on community engagement and programming, crisis communications, media relations and policy analysis. Prior to serving in the public sector, Courtney served as a local government and education journalist.

She earned a Master of Public Administration degree from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Print Journalism from Bowling Green State University. In addition to her extensive communications experience, Courtney woks with the Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies analyzing socioeconomic data and policies.

In her free time, Flynn enjoys walking her dog, road trips centered around hiking, live music and finding the best places to eat.

By Sara E. Teller

SHELL CLEANERS, ON COOLIDGE HIGHWAY, OPENED ITS DOORS ON MARCH 13, 1982. Narendra Patel, originally from India, had immigrated to the United States already with a college degree, but without speaking a word of English.

“My sister lived in Oak Park,” said Patel, which is why he chose to settle in the area. “I was looking for something to do here and the people were very nice.”

A laundromat seemed like a great option. Patel would be able to interact with many Oak Park residents and could learn English along the way. He also began to night school in Southfield after work. It wasn’t the easiest start, but he found his way, learning the language of his customers and eventually feeling at home.

“I was able to clean clothes for many customers and serve the city,” he said, which gave him great satisfaction.

Shell Cleaners served the city for 40 years and became an institution largely because Patel was known for doing great work at a reasonable price, which allowed his business to boom. He began to get to know many of his customers on a first-name basis and they would return to the the cleaners time-and-again for a quality job.

Patel was not only known for taking care of his customers’ clothing but serving them “always with a kind smile.” She added that he was such an integral part of the city that former U.S. Representative “Sander Levin wrote a letter to help bring [Patel’s] wife from India north of Bombay.” Eventually, the two were able to settle in the area together.

Patel enjoyed serving the people of Oak Park as much as they loved the work he did. They became more than just clients to him over the years. “They weren’t just customers, they were extended family to me,” he said.

YET NOW, AFTER ALL OF THOSE YEARS IN BUSINESS, Shell Cleaners has officially closed its doors. The pandemic has brought about many unforeseen changes and has hit small businesses especially hard. Unfortunately, small cleaners like Shell have been unable to obtain the same quality soap customers have come to expect and the prices of essentials such as poly bags and hangers have tripled. Because many professionals are working from home, they’ve transitioned from wearing business suits that need to be dry cleaned to more casual clothes.

All of these things affected Patel’s business. He tried to keep Shell afloat for as long as possible but there came a point that he had to make a very difficult decision. It was time to sell the building and close Shell’s doors.

“The Coronavirus has affected the whole country,” Patel said. “But it has very been hard on small businesses and their supply chains. I’m retired now but I wasn’t ready to.”

He said, “I miss the city. The city was my family.” He added he especially misses former and current Mayors Jerry Naftaly and Marian McClellan, respectively.

When asked what the future holds, Patel said he would like to eventually do something else but hasn’t decided what that is yet. Because of the pandemic and the continued difficulties small businesses face, “Right now, I’m just trying to take it easy,” he replied. Patel added he is no longer in Oak Park but may like to return someday.

Even though Shell has closed its doors, it will never be forgotten by all of the customers served over the four decades it was in business. Flynn said, “We are delighted he settled in Oak Park and wish him joy in his retirement.”

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

FOR TIFFANY PUGMIRE, HER ARTWORK IS HER MEDIATION, her cathartic release. For others, Pugmire’s artwork invokes joy, cheer, inspiration and more.

“WHEN CREATING,I AM CONSISTENTLY sifting my way through transitions and emotion; thus the extra play time with this medium lends to the remedy or healing process,” Pugmire said of her work. “For me, there is a magnetic sensation when looking at the reflection of light, and the contrast of the hidden colors in shadows. It keeps me interested in a subject as I attempt to capture this quality in my efforts.”

Pugmire gained local fame last Spring when she put her talent to work through sidewalk art. In exchange for chalk to perform her skills, Pugmire would take requests of what individuals wanted displayed on their sidewalk. Mayor Marian McClellan requested Vincent Van Gogh’sSunflowers,” and others requested birthday messages, recreations of other well-known art pieces and more.

While, the rain has since washed away the sidewalk art that brought smiles to Oak Park residents in the height of the COVID pandemic, Pugmire’s artwork can now be viewed in City Hall. This artwork won’t be found on the floors of City Hall, though; rather her oil paintings are displayed on canvas throughout the art gallery near the main entrance.

PUGMIRE’S ARTWORK DISPLAY IN CITY HALL IS PART OF Oak Park’s Public Art Exhibition Program, which is administered through the City’s Arts & Cultural Diversity Committee. Her artwork can be viewed now through the end of December.

The use of light and shadow in Pugmire’s paintings is quick to catch a viewer’s eye. The way in which she brings life to a simple bowl of eggs or a cabbage on a string is something only someone with true, raw talent can accomplish. Pair Pugmire’s inherent artistry with her training and still life art becomes anything but.

WHEN PUGMIRE IS NOT DELVING IN HER ARTISTIC SIDE she can also be found teaching yoga, practicing Reiki and working for the Oak Park Public Safety Department’s Records Bureau. She is a woman of many talents, and the City of Oak Park is thrilled to serve as a conduit between her artwork and the public.

For the Park’s Public Art Exhibition Program administered by the Arts & Cultural Diversity Program, local artists are encouraged to apply on a rolling basis. The Committee regularly seeks two-dimensional artwork for the lobby of City Hall for the duration of a quarterly exhibition period, and seeks art that represents the diversity of our community. Varied artistic styles and mediums are welcomed. All artists are encouraged to apply; however priority is given to Oak Park resident artists. Artwork should reflect positively on our community and must be suitable for public display.

Photos ©2021 by Bennie White

Detective Dwaine Green

DWAINE GREEN WAS RECENTLY PROMOTED TO THE POSITION OF DETECTIVE IN THE OAK PARK PUBLIC SAFETY DEPARTMENT. This promotion became effective on March 8, 2021 for the six-year Oak Park Public Safety Department veteran. Detective Green is a highly decorated and respected officer, as is highlighted by the numerous citations he has throughout his career.

He also serves as a Field Training Officer for newly-hired recruits and is a select member of the Comeback Quick Response Team, which supports “Hope Not Handcuffs” and the “Families Against Narcotics Program.” Both programs assist citizens who are challenged by a substance-use disorder.

The decision to promote Green to detective was based not only on his successes as an officer, but also on his personality traits. Detective Green is intelligent, knowledgeable and possess a keen sense of awareness, all valuable skills for a detective. He also has a natural ability to relate with all citizens. Detective Green is a key asset to the Investigation Bureau and the Public Safety Department is proud to have him.

Parking Officer Michael Foster & Public Safety Officer Steve Arbenowske

In addition to promoting Det. Green, the Public Safety Department also welcomed Michael Foster as a new Parking Enforcement Officer in July of 2021. Foster is an Oak Park resident and has several years of parking enforcement experience with the City of Ferndale. He has strong communication skills, which are further enhanced by his great personality.

Director Steve Cooper & Safety Officer Evan Beauchamp

Oak Park Public Safety Officer Evan Beauchamp was presented with a Director’s Commendation by Public Safety Director Steve Cooper at the Monday, Aug. 23 Council Meeting. Officer Beauchamp is one of the Department’s newest officers and completed the Fire Academy as the number one Academic Recruit amongst 23 fellow graduates.

Photo ©2021 by Bennie White

HELLO FROM YOUR OAKLAND COUNTY COMMISSIONERS! We, Commissioners Charlie Cavell (representing Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods and Royal Oak Twp., and part of Oak Park) and Yolanda Charles (representing Lathrup Village and parts of Oak Park and Southfield), would like to take a moment to say that it has been an honor to serve the residents of Oak Park throughout 2021.

And it brings us both great pride to continue representing you on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners into 2022. As we adapt and move forward through this challenging time, we are committed to supporting our residents of all ages and backgrounds, in addition to our diverse businesses and organizations.

The Board of Commissioners recently adopted the 2022-2024 County Budget, which includes funds for a number of programs that will directly assist the residents of Oak Park. In the first year of the pandemic, Oak Park small businesses were awarded $2.3 million in grant funding from the County, and local government, educational institutions, non-profits, seniors, individuals, veterans, and libraries and community centers were awarded $3.9 million.

We look forward to bringing you more information about relief and support programs made possible through Oakland County’s American Rescue Plan Act funds as the Board works with County administration to find meaningful ways to get help to those who need it most.

IN ADDITION TO THOSE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE PANDEMIC, the Board has spearheaded projects that impact all areas of life for Oakland County residents. Early in 2021, we both participated in a press conference at the Ferndale Housing Commission to launch the Fair Housing Initiative, aimed at ending source of income housing discrimination. We have also brought environmental sustainability initiatives to our communities, stood for County-wide equality initiatives and made efforts to make County government more accessible to the constituents we serve.

We thank you for your engagement and commitment to making your community a rewarding place for us all. As two commissioners serving their first terms on the Board, it’s been extremely gratifying to get to know Oak Park. From community groups to cultural events, every nook of the city has something to offer its residents and the county.

Please remember that the Board of Commissioners is here for all of you, so do not hesitate to reach out to your commissioner for any reason at all. For more information about the Board, visit www.oakgov.com/boc. For the most up-to-date information, sign up for our newsletters from our commissioner pages, which can also be found on the website.

Commissioners Charlie Cavell (District 18) and Yolanda Charles (District 17)

HELLO, THIS IS REGINA WEISS, YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE. I am a proud resident of Oak Park, and I serve the communities of Berkley, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak Township in the State House.

I was elected to serve in 2020 and am a member of the House Appropriations Committee. I have been enjoying working for you in Lansing over the past year. Before I was elected, I was a teacher in the Detroit Public Schools system, and a member of the Oak Park City Council.

This year in Lansing, I have been fighting for the people of Oak Park to ensure that your needs are being met. One of my main priorities when advocating for you was securing the necessary funds in the 2022 fiscal year state budget to support public safety, community health, infrastructure, and parks and recreation projects. I voted yes on our budget that did this and much more.

Some of the budget highlights include an allocation of $15 million dollars for lead removal and home repair grants and approximately $2.7 billion in federal supplemental relief funds, including mortgage assistance and home repairs. In addition, there was a five percent increase in higher education and community college operations payments, and the Michigan Reconnect & Futures for Frontliners tuition scholarship programs were fully funded to create opportunities for Michiganders seeking educational advancement. I passionately believe that investing in these programs will benefit all members of our community.

As Minority Vice Chair of the School Aid & Department of Education Subcommittee on Appropriations, I was particularly proud of the K-12 budget that we passed for fiscal year 2022. This budget was historic in many ways it marked the most funding ever allocated for teachers and students in our state’s history and closed the funding gap for the first time ever. The budget also included a large expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), ensuring that all eligible four-year-olds can attend a pre-K program, and increased the funding per-pupil for GSRP to match K-12 at $8,700 per-pupil for the first time.

FOR OUR DISTRICT SPECIFICALLY, I was able to secure funding for Kids Kicking Cancer, a student healing-and-wellness initiative piloted in Oak Park Public Schools. This program will significantly help our children and give them the resources needed to be successful in their everyday lives. I also secured grant funding for the Royal Oak Township Recreation Center.

Another project I have been working on in Lansing is House Bill 5270, which provides districts who have experienced declining enrollment with funding to stabilize their budgets. Many schools have struggled to get kids back in the classroom since the pandemic started, and this has caused less funding to go to those schools, leading to budgetary and staffing uncertainties.

I hope that as an increased number of people are vaccinated and other safety measures are followed, students and parents will feel more comfortable coming back to the classroom. I believe our students are more successful when learning in-person. As a teacher who taught through the pandemic, I did my best and so did my students, but the hours of Zoom instruction do not compare to having students in classrooms. I will make sure to continue fighting for the passage of this bill to ensure schools have the resources needed throughout the duration of the pandemic.

As always, I will continue fighting for you in Lansing. My office phone number is 517-373-0478 and my email is reginaweiss@house.mi.gov. Please reach out to my office with any thoughts you have on legislation or any issues that come up.

By Kim Marrone
Director of Economic Development & Planning, City of Oak Park

IN OAK PARK, WE CONTINUE TO HELP OUR BUSINESSES SOAR, NOW WITH THE HELP OF A REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. The new South Oakland Area Regional (SOAR) Chamber of Commerce primarily serves members in Oak Park, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge and Hazel Park. SOAR replaces the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce and will now better focus on supporting businesses in Oak Park and other surrounding communities by providing networking opportunities, business support and advocacy, community partnerships and professional resources.

The idea to expand the reach of the former Ferndale Chamber of Commerce to Oak Park and beyond began with a meeting between SOAR President/CEO Joy R. Wells and Oak Park Mayor Marian McClellan in November of 2019 to discuss logistics. Although the impending pandemic brought some hiccups, it also allowed enough downtime for the creation of SOAR to be worked out.

Since then, the Chamber has held networking events and worked to engage the hundreds of businesses that encompass South Oakland County.

The SOAR Chamber of Commerce is focused on B2B (business-to-business) networking opportunities. Most of the events are designed to encourage members to get to know each other, exchange ideas, and share information about resources, such as virtual Coffee Connections or in-person After Hours networking events. The Chamber offers a monthly e-newsletter, which highlights member businesses and community events. Of course, a business doesn’t have to be located in any one of the primary communities to be a member. I encourage everyone to sign up on their web site to receive their e-newsletters and event notifications. A kickoff networking event will be scheduled in the near future somewhere in Oak Park.

To say I am excited to have the SOAR Chamber of Commerce as a resource to us in Oak Park would be an understatement. When I first began working in the City of Oak Park it was something our business community asked for but never had. We worked off and on with the Ferndale Chamber to include our business community but our businesses never really felt connected. When they made the decision to include other communities and expand into Oak Park, I was elated.

NOT ONLY DOES THIS ORGANIZATION PROMOTE the economic growth and stability necessary to allow our community to continue to thrive, but it also mirrors many of the same values we have in Oak Park. One of the SOAR Chamber of Commerce’s main tenets is diversity and inclusion, something we work to include in all of our decisions and practice in Oak Park. The SOAR Chamber also puts a high value on partnership, collaboration, connection and service.

The Chamber’s values are not only exhibited in the outreach events and services, but also in those that comprise the Board. Currently, the SOAR Chamber Board of Directors consists of 50 percent business leaders and 50 percent local government officials, all of whom are committed to listening to, identifying and addressing the needs of their communities. In Oak Park, Mayor Marian McClellan and myself sit on the Board and we are looking for local Oak Park business owners who would love to join the board as well. If you are an interested business owner looking to get involved please reach out to me.

With such representation and involvement from Oak Park leaders, and the same commitment from our South Oakland County neighbors, I am certain the SOAR Chamber of Commerce will become the regional heart of economic and community development. The more diverse voices we have at the table, the better prepared we are to secure resources and opportunities for the benefit of all our members.

I cannot wait to see what is in store for this next chapter of economic growth and stability.

To learn more about the SOAR Chamber of Commerce visit www.southoaklandarearegionalcc.org or call (248) 542-2160