2013 YIR: Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published January 4, 2014

 Former Michigan State University basketball player Anthony Ianni speaks to students Oct. 23 at Anderson Middle School in Berkley.

Former Michigan State University basketball player Anthony Ianni speaks to students Oct. 23 at Anderson Middle School in Berkley.

File photo by Deb Jacques

In 2013, the cities in the Woodward Talk’s coverage area saw a plethora of news, some of it good, some of it controversial. But from Berkley and Ferndale to Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge, residents have reason to look back at 2013 as a step in the right direction.

Festivals and the Woodward Dream Cruise highlighted the cities that line Woodward Avenue while ordinances and parking changes were implemented after much consideration from local government officials.

Here’s a look back at some of the biggest stories from 2013 in the Woodward Talk’s coverage area:

New Ferndale Park+ system brings headaches in first few months
The plan seemed to make sense — replace roughly 900 individual parking meters with 19 solar-powered, digital pay stations that would serve multiple parking spaces in the same lot.

The city of Ferndale, in collaboration with the Ferndale Downtown Development Authority, rolled out the Ferndale Park+ system Feb. 7 with hopes of making parking an easier task for the residents and helping the city bring in more revenue to improve parking around the city.

However, the complaints filed in almost instantly, ranging from problems with long lines at the pay stations to the price increase in most lots.

On Jan. 14, City Council approved increasing parking rates from 50 cents per hour to 75 cents per hour, as well as an increase to $1 per hour in all lots after 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Slow pay stations in the dead of winter made waiting in line a hassle more than a convenience for most residents. And a mobile application that was supposed to allow visitors to pay without waiting in line didn’t function properly at launch.

On Feb. 25, council voted to institute free parking around the city through March 11, a date that was later pushed back to March 25. Council also voted to purchase 14 new pay stations to help with the long lines, coming at a cost of $170,000 from the auto parking fund.

A few weeks later, on March 18, council also voted to postpone the rate increases at least through the end of the year, going back to the 50 cents per hour rate for all lots.

During a review of the system in September, City Manager April Lynch said it may not be clear to some why the city moved forward with the Ferndale Park+ system, but it gives the city options moving forward that the old meters did not.

Another early problem with the system was lighting at the pay stations, as some residents didn’t feel safe waiting in the dark to pay. After knocking the parking enforcement hours back to 8 p.m. for safety reasons, the Department of Public Works installed lights at the pay stations and the City Council approved enforcement hours to be bumped up to 9 p.m.

Finally, on Dec. 4, the city installed 16 30-minute free parking zones in lots along Withington and Planavon streets, as well as along West Troy Avenue. The spots were installed as part of a pilot program to allow shoppers to get in and out of some of the stores without dealing with paying for parking.

Our Lady of La Salette School closes its doors after 70 years
For seven decades, Our Lady of La Salette School educated local students in Berkley, with generation after generation of children attending the same school.

However, due to declining enrollment, the school closed for good at the end of the 2012-13 school year in June.

Principal Dan Terbrack was one of the many people whose families had numerous generations attend the school. Terbrack was a graduate, as were his three siblings, his father, aunts and uncles and his daughter, who was able to attend La Salette for one year.

Founded in 1943, La Salette had a peak enrollment of more than 1,000 students in the 1960s. However, the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school suffered a steady decline in the coming decades.

During its final school year, the school had an enrollment of 73 students, down 47 percent from the 2008-09 school year.

The closing of the school wasn’t only felt in Berkley, as only about 35 percent of the enrolled students came from Berkley. During its final year, La Salette had students from 15 different area codes enrolled.

In September, the Our Lady of La Salette church agreed with Southfield-based Crescent Academy Charter School to lease the school building for the academy’s prekindergarten program.

Pleasant Ridge becomes 22nd municipality to pass human rights ordinance
Royal Oak passed a controversial human rights ordinance during the Nov. 5 election, but Pleasant Ridge didn’t have to contend with any such controversy in passing its own human rights ordinance.

Without much opposition, the Pleasant Ridge City Commission unanimously voted to pass the ordinance during the April 9 meeting. By a 4-0 vote, Pleasant Ridge became the 22nd municipality in Michigan to pass such an ordinance.

The ordinance, which went into effect April 24, prohibits anyone from discriminating against a person in regards to “employment, housing, public accommodations and public services on the basis of the person’s race, color, religion, sex, age, height or weight, martial status, sexual orientation, familial status, HIV status, national origin, physical or mental disability, or gender identity.”

The ordinance was introduced to the commission by City Commissioner Jason Krzyiak and didn’t meet any negative comments during the April 9 meeting.

During the commission meeting, Krzyiak said the ordinance fell in place with the spirit of Pleasant Ridge, and it was an easy decision to make sure all residents are treated equally.

Every member of the audience who spoke was in favor of the ordinance, even the one resident who only had an issue with the wording and wished it included more diseases outside HIV.

Annual festivals highlight Woodward corridor’s creative side
It started with the Blues & Music Festival in January, and the festive feeling went throughout the year to encompass Ferndale Pride, the DIY Street Fair and several smaller community events that weren’t lacking in fun.

The cities along Woodward Avenue are never shy about throwing festivals, and that is especially true of Ferndale.

The 12th annual Blues & Music Festival kicked off Jan. 25 in Ferndale, Hazel Park and Royal Oak Township, and lasted for 10 days, offering a record 75 concerts to those who attended.

While past music festivals have centered around the blues, this year’s event broadened to include everything from jazz and disco to country and electronic music.

Ferndale Pride is always a big hit, and it was no different June 1 as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community turned out to support the cause.

The big news on Pride, however, came in December when longtime chairperson Craig Covey stepped down to concentrate on other projects. Julia Music, who co-founded Pride in Ferndale with Covey, was named his successor.

The DIY Street Fair also returned to Ferndale for its sixth year in September, as local artists displayed their art and creations for visitors to purchase. The fair included roughly 143 vendors.

Local parks and recreation departments and schools had some of their own fun by offering specialized events throughout the year.

On July 25, the Berkley Parks and Recreation Department hosted the Jaycee Jamboree, providing numerous activities for kids, including inflatable bouncers, face paintings and hula-hoops.

In Ferndale, the 2013 Hilton Fall Festival invited kids from all over Oakland County to take part in fall-themed activities Oct. 5. Sack races, pony rides and Halloween-themed games highlighted the event.

Woodward Dream Cruise returns for its 19th year
No August would be complete without classic cars cruising down Woodward Avenue and patrons camping in the median to get glimpses of some of the rare, restored vehicles.

The Woodward Dream Cruise came to town Aug. 17, as every city from Ferndale to Birmingham got involved in the festivities.

In Ferndale, side features brought even more people; the weekend included the 15th annual Mustang Alley, the third annual Gumball Rally and live music along Nine Mile Road.

The Gumball Rally gave patrons a look at vehicles that have appeared in movies and television shows, while the Lights & Sirens Cruise Aug. 16 showed off classic emergency vehicles.

Mustang Alley brought in nearly 800 classic, restored, custom and new Ford Mustangs to give the public a chance to see how the design had changed over the years.

Before the Dream Cruise Aug. 17, however, the weekend was kicked off in style during the 19th annual Berkley CruiseFest Aug. 16.

Nearly 400 cars were on display, and the vehicles drove by slowly during a parade, allowing those seated along 12 Mile Road to get a good look at the classic cars.

The CruiseFest also included activities for the kids and live music from The Magic Bus.

Marijuana proposal passed in Ferndale by wide margin
On July 30, Andrew Cissell presented the Ferndale city clerk with a petition to decriminalize marijuana that had more than 600 signatures on it.

Since Cissell got more than the 364 required certified signatures, the petition went to City Council, as Ferndale looked to become one of the few cities in Michigan that had decriminalized marijuana.

The proposed ordinance would allow individuals 21 years of age and older to possess no more than 1 ounce of marijuana on private property without being subject to local law. Individuals could still face penalties through state and federal law, but the ordinance was acting more as a voice to try to decriminalize marijuana across the country.

Despite Councilman Dan Martin voting to approve the ordinance during the Aug. 12 meeting, he was outnumbered and council instead decided to send the proposed ordinance to the residents on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor already had similar ordinances, and Lansing and Jackson were putting similar proposals on their ballots.

However, in early September, Cissell was arrested on several drug-related charges following an operation by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Narcotics Enforcement Team. An individual working with the narcotics team wore a wire and purchased marijuana from Cissell, despite Cissell not having a medical marijuana caregiver card for the individual, according to police.

During the investigation, according to police, it was found that Cissell allegedly had provided a false Ferndale address when submitting the marijuana proposal petition, as he allegedly resided in Oak Park. Ferndale City Clerk Cherilynn Brown filed a complaint with the Ferndale Police Department to start an investigation into possible voter registration fraud by Cissell.

Cissell currently is awaiting trial at the 43rd District Court in Ferndale on voter fraud charges and at the Oakland County Circuit Court on the drug-related charges.

Despite Cissell’s legal trouble, the proposal remained on the Ferndale ballot and passed Nov. 5 with almost 70 percent of the vote in favor.

Proposal spokesperson Craig Covey said after the proposal passed that it was something Ferndale residents wanted for a while, and he hoped it would be the start of something bigger on the state and federal levels.

Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge candidates take part in tight mayoral races
Odd-year elections aren’t always exciting for voters, but at least in Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge, residents had a chance to have their voices heard as both cities held tightly contested mayoral races.

In Ferndale, Dave Coulter was re-elected by receiving 1,634 votes, or 47.67 percent of all votes. Coulter was able to hold on to his position despite going up against former Ferndale Mayor Craig Covey and fellow candidates Linda Parton and Sherry Wells.

Coulter, a former Oakland County commissioner for eight years, stepped in as interim mayor in 2011 after then-Mayor Covey was elected to the county commission. In the 2011 election, Coulter won the mayoral election in a landslide.

Two spots on the Ferndale City Council also were up for grabs as incumbent Melanie Piana and Greg Pawlica ran unopposed.

In Pleasant Ridge, residents headed out to vote in a new mayor for the first time in 20 years after Ralph Castelli, who had served as mayor since 1994, decided not to run for re-election.

Kurt Metzger was able to defeat former City Councilman Frank Rubino by claiming just more than 52 percent of the vote. Metzger, a 26-year resident of Pleasant Ridge, said he hopes to get Pleasant Ridge more involved with neighboring cities during his term.

The Pleasant Ridge City Commission also saw two new members voted in as Bret Scott and Jay Foreman won the two spots up for grabs, beating out Ryan Stearn.

However, Pleasant Ridge voters didn’t pass a proposed Headlee override that would have allowed the city to levy up to 20 mills for general operating expenses and up to 3 mills for solid waste and rubbish costs.

Assistant City Manager Scott Pietrzak said after the election that he didn’t feel voters were properly informed about the Headlee override and it may go up for a vote in 2014.

In Berkley and Huntington Woods, voters kept incumbent members of the council and commission, respectively, in office while Berkley residents also showed up at the polls to vote for incumbent Mayor Phil O’Dwyer despite him running unopposed.

A streets-improvement bond proposal also was approved in Huntington Woods, allowing the city to take out a $7.5 million bond as part of its 15-year street repair project.

Community members make a difference through helping, remembering others
Several members of the communities in the Woodward Talk’s coverage area helped define 2013.

On June 26, 2012, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Leach, a 29-year-old Ferndale resident, was killed while on deployment in Afghanistan. Leach’s wife, Sarah, and his son, Jack, who was 7 months old when his father died, survived him.

In April, the Berkley American Legion Post 374 unveiled a Battle Cross Memorial monument in honor of Leach, complete with a bench named after Jack and a pair of boots molded after Leach’s actual boots.

Sarah Leach said the monument gave her, Jack and the rest of Leach’s family a lasting memory of him in their lives.

Also during April and just over a mile away in Berkley, Ziad Kassab was opening the D-Man Foundation Music Therapy Studio. The studio, opened in memory of Kassab’s late brother, aimed to help those with disabilities undergo physical therapy while also creating music.

In 2013, the studio was able to help a number of patients, including 19-year-old Trei Cools, who was paralyzed in 2012 after being involved in an automobile accident. Cools said the music studio allows him to still be the person he was before the accident.

In the final semester of the school year at University High School, teacher Eddie Connor was trying to help young men in a different way. Connor started a nonprofit called “Boys 2 Books” to help young male students at UHS with any literary issues they may face.

Connor, a Ferndale High School graduate and cancer survivor, said he hoped working with the male students would help bridge the gap between being a teenager and becoming a man.

In October, former Michigan State University basketball player Anthony Ianni was working to help a younger generation of students. Ianni was diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 5, and after being told he would never go beyond high school or play sports, he earned his bachelor’s degree from MSU while also being awarded a full-ride scholarship in his senior season.

Ianni met with students at Anderson Middle School Oct. 23 to talk about overcoming obstacles and dealing with bullying at school. Ianni told nearly 600 students that overcoming obstacles made him who he was, and it could do the same for them.

Ferndale resident Holly Schultz didn’t have anyone in particular in mind to help when she set out on the streets of Ferndale during the last week of October, but her random acts of kindness, she hoped, would brighten the day of someone she interacted with.

In memory of her mother, who passed away five years ago, Schultz handed out gift cards for coffee, paid for random people’s parking and handed out candy in downtown Ferndale. Performing small acts of kindness, Schultz said, could pave the way for others to do the same.