LEFT: Chris Berry, 13, looks over a brochure Feb. 24 at the Project Manhood youth symposium at the Southfield Pavilion. Young men from local middle schools were invited to attend the event, which focused on life skills.

LEFT: Chris Berry, 13, looks over a brochure Feb. 24 at the Project Manhood youth symposium at the Southfield Pavilion. Young men from local middle schools were invited to attend the event, which focused on life skills.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Hello, 2018

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published January 4, 2018

 Jon Adams, president of the Southfield Parks and Garden Club; resident Rosemerry Allen; and Human Services Coordinator Rhonda Terry check out a new bike path unveiled July 26 along Northwestern Highway in the Southfield City Centre.

Jon Adams, president of the Southfield Parks and Garden Club; resident Rosemerry Allen; and Human Services Coordinator Rhonda Terry check out a new bike path unveiled July 26 along Northwestern Highway in the Southfield City Centre.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 RIGHT: Work proceeds at the former Northland Center site Aug. 21.

RIGHT: Work proceeds at the former Northland Center site Aug. 21.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 The Mary Thompson Farm, located in the center of the city, off of Evergreen Road, was open for tours during the Experience Evergreen event in August.

The Mary Thompson Farm, located in the center of the city, off of Evergreen Road, was open for tours during the Experience Evergreen event in August.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — As 2017 draws to a close, residents are looking back on the highs and lows of the last year. 

From embracing diversity to trailblazing leadership, there was a lot to talk about in Southfield and Lathrup Village last year. 

 

Southfield makes room for new development 

City officials announced in April that they are hoping the right developer will turn the property on the corner of Civic Center Drive and Evergreen Road into a trendy new downtown area. 

According to city officials, the city of Southfield  issued a request for qualifications for developers regarding the vacant property, dubbed “EverCentre.” 

The city is looking for someone to build a centrally located, pedestrian friendly mixed-use development on the lot, which is across from the Southfield Municipal Complex, 26000 Evergreen Road, as well as in the Southfield City Centre, a mixed-use district. 

City Community Relations Director Michael Manion said in a news release that the goal of the redevelopment is to not only attract and retain professionals, but also to create a sense of place and to spur economic development. 

The city is hoping to work with the developers on the plan for the site, as well as on the marketing and sale of the property, Manion said. 

In a market study working with the Detroit-based consulting firm Hamilton Anderson Associates, the city determined that the property could host 250 apartment units of various sizes and price points. The property could also host a boutique hotel with 125 rooms, as well as retail space, with enough room for 1,050 parking spaces. 

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver said his vision for the site is that it will be a “people magnet.”

To try to catch the eye of Amazon, city officials took a swing at the former Northland Center in November in the first step of demolition on the property. 

Demolition of the Target building at the former Northland Center began at 11 a.m. Oct. 26 as city officials gathered to watch the first bricks fall. 

At their Oct. 23 meeting, the Southfield City Council unanimously approved a $572,650 contract for the Target and Firestone building demolition with Dore and Associates, of Bay City. 

In September, Amazon announced plans to open Amazon HQ2, a second company headquarters, in North America. 

City Administrator Fred Zorn said Southfield submitted a proposal to Amazon to bring its new headquarters to the former Northland Center site, 21500 Northwestern Highway. 

In 2015, after a judge ruled that the mall would close, city officials announced that they had purchased the mall from the court-ordered receiver for $2.4 million and planned to demolish, remediate and sell the property to a qualified developer, according to Manion.

Southfield takes steps to become age friendly, pedestrian friendly and diversity friendly.

According to Karen Schrock, chair of the Southfield Commission on Senior Adults, the city last year bumped up efforts to provide resources for its aging population. 

COSA is a city-led organization whose goal is to present recommendations and information to the mayor and the City Council based on studies and investigations to help the city address the needs, concerns and problems of senior adults living in the Southfield community. 

The group also works closely with city departments and local agencies that serve the senior community, and it monitors state and federal legislation, and serves as an educational link to services and resources, officials said. 

Schrock said the city has applied to be designated by AARP as an Age Friendly Community and is in the first stages of obtaining the certification. 

With 40 percent of city residents over the age of 50, Schrock said previously that the time to act is now. 

The first step in the process to be certified, Schrock said, is to undergo an assessment on Southfield’s current resources and programs for seniors. COSA will then identify what improvements are needed to make the community age friendly, she said. Finally, the city will implement those improvements. 

During the assessment, information will be gathered on housing, transportation, recreational opportunities and other categories, Schrock said. 

Local residents aimed to break down racial barriers in March through an event at the library. 

The public was invited to the Southfield Public Library March 11 for the Know Your Muslim Neighbor event. 

The event, organized by members of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit, was designed for community members to socialize and enjoy an afternoon with their neighbors who practice Islam. 

At the free event, attendees enjoyed refreshments — such as samosas and baklava. They practiced calligraphy, learned about Muslim-American history, got henna tattoos and were invited to try on a hijab  — a head covering worn by some Muslim women. 

Event organizer Maha Ezzeddine, of Rochester Hills, said the event in Southfield was one in a series started the year before.

Ezzeddine said previously that the goal of the event was not to preach about religion, but to have casual conversations and meet people. Ezzeddine said she hoped to change people’s perceptions of Muslims. 

In an effort to promote walkability within the city, Southfield unveiled a new citywide bike share program July 26,  in addition to unveiling a new bike path along Northwestern Highway in the Southfield City Centre. 

At an April 17 meeting, the Southfield City Council unanimously approved a donation of a bike share from the Southfield City Centre Advisory Board. 

A bike share is a transportation program that provides bicycles for users to pick up at self-serve stations and return to any other bike station within the system’s service area. 

City Planner Terry Croad said previously that the City Centre Advisory Board would sponsor a one-year trial period for bike shares at multiple locations throughout the city. 

In addition, officials from the city and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced a crowdfunding campaign June 6 aimed at creating a new, interactive public art destination. 

Called Red Pole Park, the installation would be located along the new walking and biking pathway along Northwestern Highway. 

If the campaign reached its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by Aug. 4, the project would earn a matching grant from the MEDC’s Public Spaces, Community Places program. The campaign was successful in its goal. 

 

Sun area impacted by nationwide opioid epidemic

This past year, headlines were once again packed with news of overdoses and deaths caused by the country’s struggle with opioid prescription painkillers and heroin.

Law enforcement personnel, lawmakers, and local and state officials have been grappling with the growing opioid problem for years, and 2017 saw major efforts to combat the abuse of the drugs.

At the beginning of the new year, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed into law bills that made life-saving overdose reversal drugs available at pharmacies across Michigan without a prescription, allowing more people to access antagonists like Narcan in hopes of saving more lives in the event of an opioid overdose.

Calley is chair of the Michigan Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Task Force, formed in 2015, which estimates that more than 45 people die of an opioid overdose each day.

The move was endorsed by the Oakland Community Health Network and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, which has been using the drug on overdose calls for more than a year.

“How many lives saved does it require for this program to be considered successful? I say if you are a friend or family member … one,” OCHN Executive Director and CEO Willie Brooks said in an email. “Every life saved from an overdose with the use of Narcan is an opportunity to link people to treatment and to recovery. New legislation allowing pharmacists to put this extraordinary medication in the hands of families whose loved ones have a substance use disorder enables them to react quickly during a crisis situation until first responders arrive.”

While reversal drugs became easier to get, opioids and other drugs became a bit harder to come by. Pharmacists in Oakland County cracked down on “smurfing” this year with a real-time network devoted to tracking and preventing the sale of pseudoephedrine to those who might use it to make methamphetamine or sell it to someone who will. 

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson joined with Wayne County Executive Warren Evans in October to file a joint lawsuit against multiple drug manufacturers and distributors whom they believe to be in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in the sale, promotion and monitoring of opioid prescriptions.

Just a few weeks later, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard announced the takedown of 12 local individuals accused of selling heroin mixed with deadly fentanyl as part of a major drug ring in Pontiac. The bust was substantial, since police believed they had evidence to link the suspects directly to opioid-related deaths, allowing prosecutors to charge them with a homicide.

 

Southfield mourns the loss of councilwoman, Lathrup terminates city administrator

In September, longtime civic leader and environmentalist Councilwoman Joan Seymour, 83, died.

A Southfield resident since 1973, Seymour was first elected to the City Council in 1993. She had been chair of the council Finance Committee four times, chair of the Legislative and Urban Affairs Committee once, and chair of the Boards and Commissions Committee twice, according to her biography on the city website. She had also been a member of the Southfield Housing Authority, and was elected council president twice and council president pro tem five times. 

City officials hosted a memorial service for Seymour Sept. 18 at the Southfield Public Library. 

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver said Seymour was passionate about the environment, she was dedicated to her service to the city, and she dearly loved cats. 

Tempers flared in Lathrup Village in June during a special meeting of the Lathrup Village City Council in which council members voted to approve the termination of City Administrator Andy Potter. 

Residents and business owners gathered in the small, standing-room-only council chambers of Lathrup Village City Hall to discuss Potter’s performance prior to the council’s vote. 

The council voted unanimously to terminate Potter’s contract with the city. 

Potter’s performance had been in question over the last several weeks at City Council meetings, and several residents and city employees who spoke at the meeting said Potter had been underperforming and behaving inappropriately since he started the position in September 2016. 

Many city employees took to the podium at the meeting to discuss Potter’s behavior. While in office, he allegedly asked employees to rank the attractiveness of female employees, along with using harsh language. 

At a previous meeting, Councilman Ian Ferguson said Potter had a hard time getting along with coworkers, and he called Potter’s behavior “toxic” and “borderline unacceptable.”

Resident Rich Siyufy said the backlash against Potter was an attempt to smear the man’s reputation, and he said Potter had a “get it done and get it right” energy. 

Potter did not address the crowd at the meeting. However, in an interview prior to his termination, Potter said he and one councilman had a personality clash and that the issues at hand were not about his performance at all. 

Treasurer Pamela Bratschi was appointed to Interim City Administrator shortly after Potter’s termination. She currently still holds that title. 

 

Trailblazers take reins in Southfield, Lathrup Village 

In November, Lathrup Village elected its first female African-American mayor. 

Wiping away tears, newly appointed Lathrup Village Mayor Mykale “Kelly” Garrett said she was shocked at the council’s decision to appoint her mayor. 

At the Nov. 20 council meeting, Garrett was named mayor in a 3-2 vote, replacing former Mayor Frank Brock. 

According to Ken Marten, assistant to the city administrator, Garrett is the first African-American woman to serve as mayor in Lathrup Village. 

The election of mayor was done by secret paper ballot at the meeting, administered by City Clerk Yvette Talley. 

Prior to her appointment, Garrett served as Lathrup Village’s  first  female African-American mayor pro-tem. She was elected to the City Council in 2013 and was re-elected for a four-year term in 2015. 

Garrett thanked former Brock at the meeting for his guidance. 

Also in November, Southfield elected its first-ever African-American city clerk, Sherikia Hawkins.

 Hawkins, 36, a certified municipal clerk, said  previously that her main goals are to modernize the Clerk’s Office, support absentee voting, organize voter registration and education drives, and work to stop voter suppression. She was formerly the Pontiac city clerk. 

She said she is looking forward to a seamless transition to her new role, and she thanked Southfield residents for electing her. 

Lathrup Village also welcomed a new chief of police after the retirement of Chief William Armstrong. 

At its Sept. 25 meeting, the Lathrup Village City Council voted 4-0 to appoint Detective Lt. Scott McKee as Lathrup Village police chief. 

After former Chief William Armstrong retired earlier in 2017, McKee took over the role as interim chief. 

Interim City Administrator Pam Bratschi said council directed city administrators to post the vacant position and to conduct interviews to fill the position. 

According to city officials, McKee has been with the Lathrup Village Police Department for more than 20 years. He started as a patrol officer and steadily worked his way up the ladder to chief.