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January 2, 2013

So long, 2012

Mayoral recall, transit center and signs of economic recovery mark the year gone by

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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So long, 2012
Mayor Janice Daniels delivers her State of the City speech at the Troy Community Center Sept. 30.

The political divisiveness in Troy was evident, as supporters of Mayor Janice Daniels and those who supported her recall from office squared off. Plans for the Troy Transit Center moved forward, as did plans for redevelopment in projects throughout the city. And CNN Money magazine ranked Troy as the 26th best city in the country. Following are some of the events that made 2012 memorable.

January
• Troy was ranked as the safest city in Michigan, based on an independent ranking of all cities across the country. Overall, Troy ranked as the 19th safest city in the country, among cities with a population greater than 75,000, based on crime 2010 crime statistics. CQ Press, a division of Congressional Quarterly, which publishes “City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America,” ranked the cities on six crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and total crime figures, as reported to the FBI.

•  The mayor read a five-page position paper from the council table at the Jan. 9 City Council meeting, spelling out her strong opposition to the construction of a transit center using federal money, in which she sharply criticized City Manager John Szerlag. She said she had no confidence in Szerlag’s ability to continue to perform the duties granted him in his position. 

February
• Susan Pickering, media specialist at Smith and Boulan Park Middle Schools, was named Teacher of the Year in the Troy School District on Feb. 6.  As winner, she received a free year’s lease on a car, courtesy of the Suburban Collection dealership. She was described as a great teacher because she has an uncanny knack of knowing each student’s reading interests and for her special connection with students.

• The presidential primary race came to Troy Feb. 25, when Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney both spoke to a crowd of 1,200-plus in a ballroom of the San Marino Club. Americans for Prosperity hosted the forum, which cost $20 a head and touted less government, lower taxes and free markets.

March
• On March 1, the Oakland County Election Commission approved petition language submitted by the political-action committee Recall Janice Daniels to recall the mayor. 

• Troy High School juniors and friends Sara Ma and Dorothy Chen went weightless in zero gravity over the Atlantic Ocean March 21, as winners of the YouTube Global Space Lab Competition. They submitted their idea for an experiment, “Could alien superbugs cure disease on Earth?” The competition was sponsored by YouTube, Space Adventures and Lenovo in partnership with NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.  

April
• Troy City Manager John Szerlag announced he would accept the position of city manager in Cape Coral, Fla. In his written response to Mayor Janice Daniel’s Jan. 9 position paper, which was critical of him, he stated that her position paper was filled with inaccuracies and damaged his reputation. He refuted Daniels’ charges that city management had been politically one-sided in support of the transit center.

• The Troy Planning Commission approved site plans at the April 10 meeting for Old Dominion Freight Line to tear down a 34,000-square-foot, dilapidated warehouse on 15 acres off Big Beaver and Rochester roads to construct a new warehouse, vehicle maintenance facility and office building. A trucking company had previously occupied the site, which had been vacant for 10 years. 

• The Troy City Council appointed former Troy Department of Public Works Director Mike Culpepper to serve as interim city manager upon City Manager John Szerlag’s departure in May. Culpepper told the council at a special meeting April 30 that he would aim to keep things on an even keel — not to establish any large changes — and to ensure a smooth, calm transition to the new city manager.

May
• The Troy City Council approved a $131.8 million budget for 2012-13 at the May 7 meeting that included millage hikes for debt service, trash and recycling services, and water rates. Daniels cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she did not think a millage hike was justified. 

• The Troy Police Department honored detective Laurence Schehr as police officer of the year, Sgt. Donald Ostrowski as command officer of the year and police service aide Shawn Flint as non-sworn employee of the year at the San Marino Club May 17. Flint, a dispatcher, was commended for her ability to multi-task, identify priorities and remain calm. Ostrowski is a leader for the Oakland County Hazardous Materials Response Team and Schehr is an original member of the Major Crime Assistance Team, comprised of senior investigators from seven local law-enforcement agencies.

• Three Troy high schools made the grade as tops in the state and, in one case, in the country, under rankings released by Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report magazines and The Washington Post newspaper. The International Academy, with a campus in Troy, ranked as the top school in the state rankings for both magazines and The Washington Post.  In the Newsweek state ranking, Troy High followed as second, and Athens High School placed seventh on the list. U.S. News and World Report ranked Troy High School sixth in the state, and the International Academy was ranked fifth in the country in that ranking.

June
• The Troy Planning Commission unanimously approved a special land use request and preliminary site plans for a Kroger gas station on the west side of Rochester Road, south of Long Lake, at the June 2 meeting. A Burger King restaurant formerly stood on the 1.4-acre site.  

• The Recall Janice Daniels political-action committee turned in the required number of signatures June 12 to the Oakland County Election Commission to put the question of recalling Daniels on the November ballot.

July
• Starting July 1, Troy police aggressively enforced the ban on synthetic marijuana and bath salts after state lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder passed legislation banning the substances in June. Troy police visited 42 establishments in the city and secured pledges not to sell the substances from most.

• Troy was among one of the 13 communities selected to receive quality reproductions of masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Arts collection as part of the DIA Inside/Out. Masterpieces displayed around Troy included a reproduction of “the Nutgatherers,” displayed at the Troy Community Center, and a reproduction of “Self-Portrait” by Paul Gauguin placed in front of the Troy Public Library. Other reproductions were displayed at Troy Family Aquatic Center, Troy Racquet Club and Troy Historic village through the end of September.

August
• Patrick Mikes, Jr., 21, was charged with the murder of his father, Patrick Mikes, Aug. 9. Mikes Jr., a college student formerly enrolled at the University of Notre Dame and a University of Detroit Jesuit High School honors graduate had no prior criminal record. Police said the scene of the altercation was the basement of the Mikes’ home on Homewood, in the Long Lake and Adams area, where Mikes, Jr. lived. Mikes, Jr. initially told police that his father left the home on his bicycle at 5:30 p.m. July 27. The body of Patrick Mikes Sr. was found by the Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office Aug. 13, after an exhaustive search of a 25-square-mile area in Montrose Township. The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death as multiple blunt injuries to the head. 

Mikes, Jr. was arraigned in Troy after examination of extensive evidence police found in his home, as well as DNA testing by the Michigan State Police. He pleaded not guilty. His pre-trial was set for Jan. 9, 2013.

• The Troy City Council unanimously selected Brian Kischnick as the new Troy city manager. Kischnick has served as manager for Tittabawassee Township for the past 10 years. The four other candidates on the short list were Mark Miller, director of economic and community development for Troy, Farmington city manager Vince Pastue, Oakland Township city manager James Creech, Jr., and John Gabor, city manager of Marine City. 

September
• The Troy School District went live with an update to its website, aimed to create a clear, consistent look between each individual school website and the district website. Items available on the website include Power Point presentations given during school board meetings; supplemental background information on matters the school board is considering; podcasts from Oakland Schools on various issues; a direct link to Michigan Educational Assessment Program; and other data on the Michigan Department of Education website.

• Daniels delivered her State of the City speech at the Troy Community Center Sept. 20 before an audience of about 80 people. Daniels shared information she gleaned from various city departments about residential home sales, which by August exceeded the entire year of 2011, the jump in the number of new building permits from the last couple of years, and proposed mixed-use development along Big Beaver.

October
• The Troy City Council unanimously approved a deal with the Road Commission of Oakland County at the Oct. 22 meeting for the city to clear county roads of snow and ice for a stipend of $249,691. The city crews aim to clear roadways of snow more than 4 inches deep within 24 hours after snowfall has stopped. RCOC will maintain M-59 and I-75.

• Kenneth Michael Little, 25, was charged with the murder of his 3-month-old daughter Oct. 25. Police were summoned to the home and found the infant unresponsive, face down on the floor.  The cause of death was blunt force trauma. Little’s attorney requested a competency exam for Little.

November
• Voters recalled Daniels from office Nov. 6 by 1,770 votes. Daniels said she was “pretty sad,” and couldn’t say if she would run for elected office in the future. The Troy City Council appointed Councilman Dane Slater to fill the mayoral seat after he resigned his seat on the council at the Nov. 26 meeting.

• The Troy School District made the College Board AP (Advanced Placement) District Honor Roll for both the number of students taking AP classes and the grades they achieved on the AP exams. Currently, 31 percent of high students in the Troy School District take AP courses. 

• Troy City Council members, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, Birmingham city officials, members of the Troy Chamber of Commerce, former Troy elected officials, and Troy city officials attended the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Troy Transit Center Nov. 27.  The project stalled in December of 2011, after the council failed to approve an architectural contract, in effect rejecting the federal funding. This past January, a divided council capped total costs for the project at $6.2 million and accepted the federal funding.

December
• On Dec. 12, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris ordered the city to hold a special mayoral election in May, rather than next November, as the city had planned. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, with support from state Attorney General Bill Schuette, filed suit against the city Nov. 30, asking a judge to issue an injunction forcing the city to hold a special election in February and accept the applications of residents Dan Brake and Planning Commissioner Ed Kempen as candidates for mayor. Morris said it was in best interest of the voters to hold the election in May, rather than February, due to the holidays.

• The Troy City Council unanimously selected Ed Pennington to fill the vacant council seat at the Dec. 17 meeting that Mayor Dane Slater resigned from before he was appointed as mayor. Pennington was selected from a total of 41 applicants for the seat.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.