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March 18, 2013

Fouts: Warren ‘thriving, dynamic’ and not ‘miserable’

Mayor blasts Forbes, announces plans to build walking bridges and fine blight offenders

By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer

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Fouts: Warren ‘thriving, dynamic’ and not ‘miserable’
Warren Mayor Jim Fouts delivered his 2013 State of the City remarks March 13. The mayor repeatedly blasted Forbes magazine for labeling Warren “miserable.” Fouts also called for the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Van Dyke and a crackdown on repeat blight offenders.

WARREN — With remarks that at times sounded as much like an attack on Forbes magazine as a State of the City speech, Mayor Jim Fouts told a lunchtime crowd that Warren is “thriving, dynamic,” but not “miserable” March 13.

Speaking to a group of several hundred city employees, community leaders, residents and supporters gathered at Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse, Warren’s second-term mayor said that “the worst is over,” as he repeatedly took jabs at Forbes for recently including Warren on its list of America’s “Most Miserable Cities.”

When he wasn’t jumping on Forbes, Fouts took aim at charter schools and plans to eliminate the state’s personal property tax.

And when he wasn’t doing that, he applauded the work of his administration and made several announcements.

The mayor’s new plans included tagging repeat blight offenders with $2,000 fines.

“You’ve got one blight strike and the second one, you’re out $2,000,” Fouts said. “It’s going to be unpopular with a lot of people. We’re going to make them pay. Otherwise, they can move out of the city.”

After the speech, the mayor said he’d refer the blight fine measure to the city’s legal department to draft language that would need approval from the Warren City Council.

He said the fines would apply to any blighted business or residential home — including the city’s thousands of vacant properties and rental units, if feasible — but that the specifics of the plan had not been finalized.

Fouts also announced plans to explore construction of a walking bridge between the General Motors Technical Center on Van Dyke and Warren’s Civic Center directly across the street. The mayor said the bridge would be enticing to developers interested in building on acres of available land around Warren’s municipal offices because it would give 16,000 employees easy access to potential retail stores and restaurants.

“We want to sell a major developer in developing the downtown area,” Fouts told reporters after the speech. “That would be a major hook.”

The mayor’s announcement came less than a week after Campbell Ewald unveiled plans to leave its headquarters in Warren, just south of the Civic Center, for space at Detroit’s Ford Field. Fouts told those assembled that he wanted to lure a “blue chip” business to occupy the 150,000-square-foot office tower that Campbell Ewald owns on Van Dyke.

The city of Warren also owns 16 acres of available land in Warren’s Downtown Development Authority district along Van Dyke that Fouts would like to see developed by his new-look DDA board.

The mayor later told reporters about a concept to build a second bridge across 12 Mile Road, between Macomb Community College and the soon-to-be-built Wayne State University Advanced Technology Education Center.

Fouts also used the podium to thank the city’s voters for approving three millages over the last year to pay for libraries, residential street repair and public safety staffing.

He said the city’s EMS transport program through the Warren Fire Department has generated $6.9 million in revenue since January 2010 and that the program had become a model for other departments.

Fouts cited an overall decrease in violent crime — down 11 percent in 2012 — and announced a list of planned residential street projects for 2013 including sections of Lyons Circle, Warner, Toepfer, Desmond, Edwin, Ironwood, Geoffry, Roan, Federal and Gilbert.

After the speech, Warren City Council member Keith Sadowski said he was pleased to see the mayor discuss plans to make the downtown area more attractive for potential developers.

“It’s nice to see the positive things happening. The mayor talks about attracting more businesses, and now businesses are looking into the city,” Sadowski said.

Council member Kelly Colegio said she’d definitely want to see any proposal about new fines for repeat blight offenders apply to all properties within the city, including rentals, which she said is a growing blight problem. 

“When I do these neighborhood meetings, these (rentals) are the houses I find,” Colegio said.

Fouts also announced the appointment of James A. Van Havermaat as Warren’s new city engineer. Havermaat served previously as Warren’s city engineer from 1988 to 1995. He’ll succeed Donna Dordeski and Todd Schaedig, who have served as acting city engineers at various times over the last several years. Both Dordeski and Schaedig will remain with the city at other posts.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.